Film and Realism

Task 1:

This frame, from the film Perfume seems to portray a crowd of peasants exclaiming their glee towards their ruler.  In their faces, though we see a semblance of obsession and almost lust.  While the ruler has his back to the camera, his extended arms give the impression that he is thoroughly enjoying the attention, and is even instigating it.   These two points of view are probably explored further in the film. Perhaps he is granting the peasants’ freedom, or is allowing only one person to live, killing all the others – forcing them to beg for his saving.  They almost seem to be fighting and scrambling over each other; their love is directed only towards him, and they are willing to destroy each other for his attention.  The sadistic nature of the prince basking in the extreme lust and reverie suggests a more sinister nature of the prince previously overlooked in the sun-drenched scene.

Prince: My People! My People! It is I, your prince and savior

People: Hail! Prince!

Prince: My beautiful people!

People: Oh how we love you, love us back prince, oh prince.
The crowd of people falls into screaming and calling out without direction

Prince: My people. Listen to me on this day. Today is indeed the day of reckoning. For today, you must indeed place your trust in me.
With this declaration, the crowd settles a bit, wondering what he is talking about.

Prince: You see, today we must eliminate the weak from our masses. Today only the capable will survive. And it is I, your humble servant, who will chose who among you is worthy of life.
The crowd grows restless, clearly searching for more information.

Prince: So, it is with your love and affection towards me that you will survive. That is all. Prove your worthiness. Prove your loyalty. Prove your life.
One by one, and then in huge waves, the surrounding crowd realizes their salvation rests in his hands, and begin to throw themselves in a frenzy of lust towards him.

Task 2:
58 minutes into the film Perfume, Grenouille, the main character leaves Paris to go to Grasse, the perfume capital of the world.  He leaves Paris on foot, young, in decent clothes, no facial hair, clean, and full of excitement.  Upon arrival in Grasse, in southern France, we see Grenouille extremely thin, with cuts and bruises all over his body, wearing tattered rags, with a full beard, long hair, and a fatigue witnessed by his deep set eyes and longing expressions.
In between these two distinct visuals, a narrator describes his journey in obtuse philosophic language. His trek is at one point documented by his silhouette climbing a mountain in front of a gorgeous yellow sunset.  The passage of time is documented by a slow fade to black followed by a flashback scene, where he has an epiphany about his existence. When he wakes up from his dream, he is suddenly fully bearded, and no longer shows his naivety, but instead a determined, and rugged self.
Without us witnessing, we essentially saw Grenouille change from an adolescent full of wonder, to a full adult with ambitions.  We do not witness the growth of facial hair, nor do we watch him starve in the mountain cave; but, we are left with this distinct feeling that he has changed, he has a mission, and knows how to complete it.
This sequence also uses a narrator, which allows the viewer to connect mentally with Grenouille, but keeping an omniscient distance.  The music, which changes from an airy soundtrack with chimes, deepens into a dark chorus, which echoes Grenouille’s own personal angst.

Task 3:
The film The Mission, is one that serves very well to haunt the minds of its viewers and serves to educate the viewer on a horrible side of humanity one is oft to forget.  It is based on a story of a Jesuit mission in South American during the 18th century. The Jesuits attempting to convert the natives end up being the native’s saviors when the secular governments attempt to enslave the natives.  This film allows the viewer to grasp the relationship between missionary work and colonization.  The missionaries, though working under their own prerogative, were expected at the same to answer and acquiesce to the King and the Vatican administration.
Throughout the film, the Jesuits are portrayed as bringers of peace, education, and love while the colonial representatives and soldiers bring slavery, pain and hardship. This duality serves to attach the viewer to the Jesuits and natives, while despising the others.  The hatred reaches its dramatic, and heartbreaking, pinnacle when the near defenseless Jesuits and natives are slaughtered by the hands of the soldiers.
The film could have devoted more time to the reactions and feelings of the natives. While the film does portray the anguish and loss of the native population, it does so very much through the eyes and lens of the Portuguese and Spanish invaders.  It is appalling to see the natives shot down with guns, when they could only defend with their primitive weapons, but the most dramatic and pivotal deaths are of the white men who tried saving – both religiously and eternally.
History is told through the stories of the victors.  Often, the portrayal of history in film and art, too,  is biased towards the vanquishers, forgetting those who cannot speak for themselves.  This film, while obviously attempting to shed light upon the plight of the natives in a colonized South America, it still commits itself to the traditional views and values of the colonizer saving the indigenous people – as if they were incapable of defending themselves.
As a resource for historians, this film serves best as a reminder and perhaps launch pad for discussion of the ethics of missionary work and colonization.  It could serve as a vehicle to motivate activists against modern-day slavery and exploitation in developing countries. This film, though, as a source of historical material is prone very much towards the director’s biases and artistic interpretation.


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