Sunday, April 24, 2011

Reconsidering a Film: A Place in the Sun

While I wouldn't have listed this film as a favorite, I would have said I loved it prior to watching it for this project.

Now? Eh. Not so much.  I like the IDEA of it and I like the look of it and I like the actors but the movie as a whole? It's troubling.

First, and perhaps this has something to do with the technical trouble I had watching it, I found it over long and that it dragged in places. But, again, I had a lot of tech trouble and it took something like three tries to watch the film.

Second are the concerns Athelas raises in her post so I won't rehash them here. In my memory, Elizabeth Taylor's Angela is a much rounder character as is Shelley Winters' Alice. The movie, of course, flattens them a good bit which is just inexcusable in an over two hour film.

These two issues may also have a lot to do with my particular literary field. I don't do naturalism. If we take a quick look at what Wikipedia says we find:

"There are defining characteristics of literary naturalism. One of these is pessimism. Very often, one or more characters will continue to repeat one line or phrase that tends to have a pessimistic connotation, sometimes emphasizing the inevitability of death. . . . Another characteristic of literary naturalism is detachment from the story. The author often tries to maintain a tone that will be experienced as 'objective.' Also, an author will sometimes achieve detachment by creating nameless characters (though, strictly speaking, this is more common among modernists such as Ernest Hemingway). This puts the focus on the plot and what happens to the character, rather than the characters themselves. Another characteristic of naturalism is determinism. Determinism is basically the opposite of the notion of free will. For determinism, the idea that individual characters have a direct influence on the course of their lives is supplanted by a focus on nature or fate. Often, a naturalist author will lead the reader to believe a character's fate has been pre-determined, usually by environmental factors, and that he/she can do nothing about it. Another common characteristic is a surprising twist at the end of the story. Equally, there tends to be in naturalist novels and stories a strong sense that nature is indifferent to human strugglet" (

While this entry is problematic in a number of ways (kinda obvious that literary naturalism would have defining characteristics, just for example), it does give a good brief idea of what naturalism is. And, while naturalism sounds super cool in theory (who doesn't like a good pessimistic story about someone fated to die by the end?), it doesn't so much work for me in practice (that detachment part kills it really) hence my affinity for postmodernism. With pomo you get pessimism and objectivity but there is a push and pull with the reader/viewer. Naturalism just doesn't care if you care. And that doesn't lend itself to engaging the reader/viewer.

So, yeah, entertaining but problematic. I'd say I want to read the book to see how it deals with these concerns but it's basically 900 pages long and I'm already reading another book to confirm that it's bad.

Athelas: 2 things:

1. I thought you'd not seen this one before but I went to look to see if I'd watched it recently and found this:  At least you're consistent in your opinion of it :)

2. Would you look to see what the book says about why we should watch this before we die? I didn't so much pack that ginormous book in my suitcase :)


  1. Hah! I had that weird deja-vu-y feeling when I was watching, but I thought maybe I had pretended to read it when I was studying for comps. And, just as an aside, I think I've gotten dumber. That last post seemed way more sophisticated than what I came up with yesterday. Awesome. Moving along! The book says:
    "APITS becomes one of classic Hollywood's most touching and tragic romances, a result of Stevens's careful coaching of the principals (who were told to emphasize body language rather than dialogue) and his artful manipulation of two contrasting styles." The eds go on to identify these two styles as fairy tale/soft focus with Angela, noir with factory and trial scenes.

    All well and good, but the whole damn thing falls apart if you don't believe in the romance. Which I just didn't. I liked the Eastman son better, which I think qualifies as a pretty major problem.

  2. Ha! Well, at least you'd actually seen the movie. I swore up and down I'd seen Fight Club and only realized I had not when I was showing it to a class.

    Yeah. That's all super but the movie kicks you out of its narrative completely so you just can't be touched by it and, I'd argue, tragedy relies on the viewer being deeply emotionally involved.