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Come Die for Mr. Jensen, Kids.

By Jenny Fine

You don’t believe in miracles, Mr. Jensen?  Well, that’s Swan Lake.

You remember the dying swan?

Come die for Mr. Jensen, kids.

Die for Mr. Jensen.

This movie, A Woman Under the Influence, is about death, not a literal death, but a metaphor, subduing, extinguishing, the blotting out of a woman’s emotions. The two most poignant scenes in this movie display two opposing conditions: freedom and restraint.  This movie set in the 1970s is much about American society in the 70s dealing with the other–the eccentric. Throughout the movie Mabel asks her family, do you think I’m crazy? To which the movie plot answers a resounding yes.

In this plot, Mabel is institutionalized, and when she returns home she tries to control her emotions–to not get too excited.  Yet, everything she does is wrong in her family’s eyes.  Nick takes her to the stairs and pleads with her to be herself, “say ba-ba, say ba-ba”– Mabel replying “I don’t understand what you want me to be.”  At the height of her confusion and frustration Mabel asks,

Dad, will you stand up for me?

No, Sit down, Dad.

Will you please stand up for me?

No, no sit down Dad.

A gesture with two meanings – as the scene evolves we realize that Mabel wants the support of her father and family, but also that gesture of him standing and sitting mimics the push and pull Mabel feels as she tries to conform to their expectations.  After this scene Mable goes to the couch and begins swaying and humming Swan Lake–an expression of freedom and escape from her reality. But also she sways as if to say, “Nick, I am dying for you.  Clap.  Say bravo.  I just died for you.“

A Woman Under Instruction

By N.D. Eggert

A Woman Under the Influence is about a woman trying to be herself in a society that tells her exactly who to be.  Mable Longhetti is mother and wife and woman, with instructions for filling these roles.

Wife

Be a perfect hostess.  Smile and talk.  Not too loud, not too friendly, not too quiet.  Sit down.

Mother

Be a perfect nurturer.  You are the grown-up.  Feed them, care for them, they need you to be grown up. Protect them, and do not hurt them.  No emotions.

Woman

Be polite, and do not talk about that.  It is inappropriate.

Please, stand up.  Could you sit down?  Did you say anything?

Mable’s increasing eccentricity as she attempts to perform as instructed leads husband Nick to commit her.  After six months of electroshock, she returns quieted and still unsure what to do.  Again she is instructed:

“BE YOURSELF!”

Nick yells at his broken Mable.  But who is that self she was never allowed to be?  She tries being friendly at a breakfast party, but her hospitality crosses boundaries.  She makes up for lashing out at her children by throwing an after-school party seemingly out of control.  At last she is sent away.

In her absence, Nick seems to go crazy himself.  What is madness? An inability to cope with a life you did not choose, or the inability to control the one you did?  These are the questions surrounding Nick and Mable.

Below are posted three very short essays produced by students in the undergraduate seminar on Wexner Media Arts screenings. These three essays were the best of some twenty essays written without notes in five minutes at the beginning of the first class meeting after the Wexner screening of the Turkish film, Three Monkeys, by Nuri Bilge Celon. Comments by students in the class and by the general public are welcome. Comments by the general Wexner audience are especially welcome. Here are the essays:

History of Art 500

“Three Monkey’s” – written observation

By: David C. Murphy

“In Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Alice follows a mysterious white rabbit into a rabbit hole to enter ‘Wonderland’, an absurd and improbable world inhabited by many strange characters.  By extension the term, has come to signify any event, which triggers a completely unexpected situation.” – Wikipedia 2009

The film, “Three Monkeys”, consists of a series of events that begin by passing or looking through a defined space or object only to end up in situations of despondency. The movie begins as Servet, a politician on the eve of the elections, drives tiredly through the night down a dark, wet and narrow road.  The camera shot follows just behind the car’s boot, then abruptly stops, as we watch the car continue into a tunnel of light that its headlights attempt to create until it is consumed by darkness.  It is at this moment that this man has entered his “rabbit hole”, a spiraling road of cause and effect that would eventually lead to his demise.

We soon realize that the politician had fallen asleep at the wheel and tragically hits and kills an innocent person.  Realizing that this horrifying event would ruin his chances of being elected to office, he hastily calls his driver, Euyp, to meet him.  As Euyp leaves his home we see him pass through a dark tunnel filled with flecks of dancing light as a train passes above.  This would turn out to be one tunnel Euyp had wished he never entered, for it too would only lead to tragedy.

Later in the film, after Euyp had gone off to prison for confessing to Servet’s crime in exchange for money, Euyp’s son, Ismail, unexpectedly comes home sick and hears a bit of shuffling and laughter in his mother’s bedroom.  With shock and fear in his eye’s, Ismail quietly tip toes over to his mothers door, then slowly bends down and looks into the keyhole; an event that would for ever change all of their lives.

Knowing that Euyp and Ismail are getting suspicious, Servet sets up a meeting with Euyp’s wife, Hacer, in order to break off their affair.  As she races down the hillside to meet Servet, she runs into a stone wall where she must pass thru a small doorway leading to a lookout over the sea where he waits; again the passing through.  The scene finally ends from the vantage point of an onlooker hiding behind some trees peeping through a hole in the branches and leaves in order to witness the indefinite truth of what has been taking place.  It had been Ismail, who would go on to kill Servet and thus create yet another unimaginable consequence to an act of having gone or looked through something which would forever change everything.

 

Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s Three Monkeys

Essay by

Paula Gaetano Adi

“See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil,” in order to achieve wisdom, but also, to protect ourselves from suffering: that seems to be the metaphor behind Ceylan’s “Three Monkeys” film.

In a very hot and stifling environment, the crucial parts of the film are implicit. Ceylan’s characters are predestined to live consequences rather than actions.

There is an accident, a dead child, a murder, an infidelity, an illness, a secret agreement but none of it happens on-screen.

There is a lot “unsaid”, connoted. The characters do not say anything, like the monkey covering his mouth. Thus, the viewers are not able to see or hear; the central actions of the film remained in an off-scene space. And so -I wonder- is Ceylan assigning to the viewers the place of being the monkeys covering the ears and eyes?

 

Three Monkeys

By Katisha Hernandez

“Three Monkeys” brings to my mind the saying “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil.”  And in this film the audience ‘sees no evil’; the two deaths in this movie happen off-screen.  Servet, the politician, makes sure no one hears of his evil doing by paying Eyüp, his driver, money to take the blame and also keep to quiet what really took place.  The path of this hush money is something I find interesting in the storyline of this film.  The money starts off in the hands of a corrupt politician and is promised to his driver.  When the driver’s wife asks the politician for an advance, more evil ensues, in the form of an affair.  Later the money is given to the son so he can start his life, but when he sees his mother begging the politician not to leave her, he is enraged and murders the politician.  Finally, the father offers the hush money to his friend who lives at a tea house, with the condition that he will take the blame for the politician’s murder.  This lump sum of money, in a way, drives the plot and precedes many of the evils that occur in this film.

Hello world!

Welcome to the 2009 Wexner undergraduate seminar from the Department of History of Art, Film Studies, and the Wexner Center at Ohio State University. The interested public is invited to check in here anytime and make comments whenever you wish.

Thanks to the Media Arts curators at the Wexner Center for suggesting this blog, and thanks to Chris Stults, who curates the Wexner’s avant-garde film programs, for setting up the blogsite and helping me administer it. He has added some links on the right side of this blog that should convince anyone that the world of alternative film is rich beyond belief.

That is what this Wexner seminar will explore. This blog will be simple. Once or twice a week, I will post the best one or two short essays by seminar students, who will be writing about the media arts events on this season’s Wexner calendar; they won’t be writing about all of them, but quite a few. The other students in the class, and the general public, can read and post comments on those essays. We’ll see where it goes.

Anyone in the general public who would like to see a syllabus for the seminar, let me know at green.31@osu.edu.

More to come,

Ron Green

Professor of Film Studies in the Dept of History of Art, OSU

P.S.: Above will be posted a continuing series of very short essays produced by students in the undergraduate seminar on Wexner Media Arts screenings. These essays are the best of some twenty essays written without notes in five minutes at the beginning of each class meeting after the assigned Wexner screenings. Comments by students in the class and by the general public are welcome. Comments by the general Wexner audience are especially welcome.