December 2, 2012

"Up The Yangtze" and Terministic Screens

For the past couple of days since our film viewing, I have been thinking about the way that the movie was filmed, and the effect that it had on the audience. It is clear that the producer of the film had a bias towards the government. He thought that displacing thousands of people for the good of the economy was wrong, and used heart-wrenching stories of poor families in the area to get his point across. However, if he had been on the side of the government, he would probably not have shown this side of the story, and would have merely shown the great strides that the government was making in order to better their society.

I think that Burke's concept of terminisitic screens can easily be applied to this film. Terministic screens have to do with the way our attention is directed, depending on how, or through what light, an object is portrayed. Burke uses an example of different colored filters on the same photographed object. He also exemplifies a single dream being analyzed by different kinds of professionals, and says: "In each case, we might say, the 'same' dream will be subjected to a different color filter, with corresponding differences in the nature of the event as perceived, recorded, and interpreted" (Burke 46).

In the case of Up The Yangtze, the man who filmed/directed the documentary makes it clear where he wants to direct our attention. If a member of the government were to have filmed this documentary, he would have been looking at the same situation through a different terministic screen, which would have completely changed the way that we comprehend and interact with the film. Many of the points that the producer raised, like issues of poverty, class, and power, would most likely not have been the main focus of the film, had it been filmed by someone with a different view. Burke also says that some terministic screens point to differences of degree, and others point to differences of kind. In this case, I think that two opposing views would point to differences of degree, ie. the degree of emphasis on poverty vs. the degree of emphasis on the success of the government.

1 comment:

Victoria said...

I think your point about the different filming techniques is good. It's a very interesting way to examine how a film is shot/framed to make us see the terministic screens the film maker wants us to, which are not necessarily our own. The interesting effect movies have is that we are given a viewpoint that is very much not our own, but we are coaxed into identifying with it, through various film shots.

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