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MCA: Horizon Shot and What Not



A Brush With Intertextuality

"Those who do not want to imitate anything, produce nothing." Salvadore Dali
“Creativity is just connecting things” Steve Jobs.
 (RIP Jobs this is what I am doing in this post!)
"There’s no such thing as originality anyway, just authenticity.” Helene Hegemann-Pictured above.

I wanted to share with you a 'horizon shot' that I like to watch from time to time.
But two things came up!
First I lost sound in my laptop for a while now.
The music in that shot is part of the lyrics.
I think it was a brief bass note synchronized with the leap over the horizon of three UN SUVs followed by low-flying Helicopters. The lack of sound will not help me help you appreciate the shot.
Second, some 'what not' came up in the aftermath of the outrageous literary theft committed by a 17 year old German author who copycatted into a book another person's blog and went viral, selling 100,000 copies of the book in 3 weeks. Issues of authorship, originality and plagiarism and what not.
This German author, Helene Heggeman, was so audacious that she said what I quoted above.
She has her lawyer and a host of modern day philosophers on her side!
She also has Mark Twain (Tom Sawyer, Huckleberry Fin etc.)!

Twain with Keller
In a letter to Helen Keller, St. Patrick's Day, 1903 Mark Twain wrote "The kernel, the soul-- let us go further and say the substance, the bulk, the actual and valuable material of all human utterances--is plagiarism....a grown person's memory-tablet is as a palimpsest, with hardly a bare space upon which to engrave a phrase."
Keller was accused of stealing a short story from another author.
That will prove to be.....not another story!
-----------
There could be an uncountable number of horizon shots in movies, particularly those shot on location or those depicting battles or ancient frontier movies of the John Wayne type. But the one I am sharing today has always been a source of immense pleasure to me. It is from the desert scene in Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977).
Watch it in this clip from Close Encounters of the Third Kind (Will be back in a bit)




But Spielberg was not really the originator of this type of shot which delivers you into
action or ends your tense expectation. The first acknowledged use of this 'horizon shot'
was in Akira Kurosawa's Seven Samurai  (1954)! It is when the bandits on horsebacks
gallop down the hilltop in their anticipated attack on the village of the helpless farmers!
Watch this clip from Seven Samurai:




Between 1954 and 1977 only Spielberg cared to admit his being influenced by the Japanese filmmaker Akira Kurosawa in employing the horizon shot which is pretty common in movies.
The use of the term 'influenced' seemed to be so comfortable that many other giant movie-makers stepped forward and announced their being 'influenced' or 'inspired' by Kurasawa! Sergio Leone, Francis Ford Coppola, Martin Scorsese and George Lucas are some of these.

Kurosawa (left) with F. Cappola (middle) and Spielberg
Some prominent European filmmakers did not seem to be much fascinated by the works of Kurosawa. Bergman was quoted as saying: "Now I want to make it plain that The Virgin Spring must be regarded as an aberration. It's touristic, a lousy imitation of Kurosawa." He was talking about his own film!
Obviously terms like inspiring, influencing, quoting, alluding or referencing have nothing to do with violation of intellectual property or with.......plagiarizing!

*******


Bergman
The other day I was browsing through the photo album of a friend when I found what I thought was another famous 'horizon shot' from Bergman's movie The Seventh Seal  in which Death as a character in the movie leads the plague-stricken Swedes to their doom. I spontaneously asked my friend if it was inspired by Bergman's famous shot. She said she was not aware of a horizon shot by Bergman!
Then I hastened to describe this similarity as a kind of intertextuality but then I realized that, formally, this term is applied to texts and what we were discussing were images!  I liked to call it 'intertextuality' anyhow. Just a gut feeling. No critical pondering over the matter. I relied on the fact that images and texts share this coding nature or have the effect of references which accumulate in our visual memory!
I later found that the informal use of 'intertextuality" in analyzing pop culture elements includes not only texts but also movies, music and their mixes. Formal intertextuality of the Julia Kristiva caliber was concerned with literary texts!
Here is my friend's personal photo shot in Masquat- The Sultanate of Oman 2009.




Below is Bergman's horizon shot from his iconic movie "The Seventh Seal" 1957




The similarities are amazing!
Both are silhouetted, with a grey sky as a background and the people in more than one spot are joining hands!
My friend does not understand that she used Bergman's shot as an intertext to her own image!
"Because," she said emphatically " I never saw his shot!"
I turned to her looking like a Roland Barthes and said: "You don't have to see it to make one like it!"

**
Helen Keller was acquitted after an investigation.
Helene Hegemanne's case was solved by a settlement between publishers but she did not win the Leipzig Book Prize for which she was nominated.
Horizon shots are so common, you probably will not notice the next one!
Published on Aug 29/2012 @ 4:53 ET


Comments

  1. Dear Mustafa finally I am honored to comment in Ya Musatafa I found it amazing and so rich ,having talk about my photo in Muscat I have to mention that the idea of the shot developed and induced by the surroundings and the atmosphere we were in Bedia desert ,and you can just imaging when you have an endless and open horizon the first thought came to my mind is to use all of this and to try to grasp the whole feeling of the place .Allow me to use you quote "There’s no such thing as originality anyway, just authenticity.” Helene Hegemann-Above

    Ahhhhha I think my photo was just an authentic one ,is'nt it ?
    love and respect
    Elham Abdelkhalig

    ReplyDelete
  2. Nice words Elham, thanks. Helene Hegemann is daring young lady. I liked what she said. She probably knew uncle Twain (is) siding with her!

    ReplyDelete

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