This blog is part of the courses on film, art, literature, and media
given by Dr.
Hudson Moura, Toronto, Canada.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Fragmented Ideology

Review of Chapter 4: “The politics of form: a conceptual introduction to 'Screen theory',” Warren Buckland
Routledge Companion to Cinema and Politics, ed. by Yannis Tzioumakis and Claire Molloy 

By: Paul Persic

Warren Buckland provides a vast variety of interesting statements on his perspective of politics in form even if it feels very unfocused and unsparing. Upon his theoretical connection, he brings up interesting facts about Capitalism on how Marx’s theory is a contradiction of ideology. This chapter is focused on the idea of ideology; he uses so many different Writers, philosophers, and idealists to provide statements through their work. These writers all have an ideology, something they acquired, strived for, and had concrete facts to uphold what they believe in. In reading this chapter, it is clear that Buckland was unable to replicate the same concrete statements without the use of other examples, and ends up feeling like I’m reading a compilation of artist quotes contradicting each other.

Buckland talks about the views of ideology, it seems to be in agreement to the philosopher Althusser. Althusser identifies the concept of social totality in four ways, economic, political, ideological and theoretical. Here we will focus on the theoretical aspect due to the nature of ideology. Buckland states that “theoretical practice is a process of transformation that has a scientific knowledge as its product.” (p. 50) Here he states that knowledge is based upon pre received objects that is a process of theoretical transformation. He brings up the notion that knowledge isn’t reality itself but the ideological representations of facts. This opinion is granted through the Philosopher’s ideology and Buckland just presumes that because his ideology seems “factual” that is actually is. My notion is that there is no such thing as unadulterated experience of facts or truth, untarnished by ideology. The very notion of experience and truth is ideological, i.e. based on definite ideas about what experience and truth means. Ideology is not a bad thing. We cannot think or act without a definite worldview or system of ideas. The problem is the soundness or unsoundness of a particular ideology. Can the ideas of a particular ideology or doctrine be rationally defended from critical scrutiny? That's all that matters. Talk of rejecting ideology is nonsense. Ideology is a precondition of thinking and acting. Buckland can’t quite bring out his own ideology. One can argue that the pre-notion of this article being about the subject of ideology and not his own is true. To create a solid foundation of his blunt responses, he needs to use the quotes sparingly and less of a way to overpower his own points.

According to the second half of the ideology practice section of the chapter, Buckland talks about the second theory that Althusser created--ideology as a practice. He states that “Althusser posited the individual as a mere support of ideological price, which works to position and define the role of the individual within the overall social totality.” (p. 51) Further he evaluates that ideological is not really from ones pre-existing consciousness, but the condition to one’s existence. This is very true in the sense that for example if someone was grown up in the Bronx, they would be heavily influenced by the gangsters and gambling that roam around the streets. This stresses an ideological sense of dread from the individual. That is only an example, an example of Althusser’s second outlook on ideology. Buckland, instead of building upon his view of the philosopher’s points, seems to just list Althusser’s opinions in a table of content matter. Wouldn’t it be interesting if he built upon the idea of influence? And why he thinks personally that it could affect how one grows up? I want to state my own opinion with the theme of how the environment affects ones ideology. The reason I want to make this statement is because I want to provide an example of how strong a personated opinion can be in comparison to Althusser’s. Ideologies suffocate individual thought. People subscribe themselves to ideologies and by the very nature of ideologies and social pressures; they subconsciously bend their worldview to match it. I don't think ideologies are healthy to completely accept. Therefore, they are not good for the individual. Ideologies should be acknowledged but shouldn't be treated as factions to die for, like so many people have done and continue to do. Althusser’s claims that you shouldn’t look outside the box too much, I disagree. You should be able to think outside of an ideology. You need to examine it from outside to judge whether or not it's a useful lens through which the view the world. If we don't question our own way of thinking, we'll never know which way of thinking brings us closest to the truth. Maybe Buckland’s ideology is that he agrees with everybody else.

The two theories of ideology by Althusser have built to a critical critique of mainstream cinema. With this critique, Buckland decides to use the words of two French journalists named Comolli and Narboni to describe this manner. He quotes “Once we realize that it is the nature of the system to turn the cinema into and instrument of ideology, we can see that the filmmaker’s first task is to show up the cinema’s so-called ‘deception of reality’.” (Comolli and Narboni in Buckland, 2016, p. 53) What this means is that it underlines the ideology of mainstream cinema. The impression of reality is what is presented on screen which is real, even though it’s been created cinematically. I really like the examples that Buckland decides to implement with the subject, it’s clear, convincing, and touches on a very important aspect of filmmaking. It is essential that builds upon examples of why critiques on mainstream cinema is important and how it’s been like compared to the ideology presented. Let’s make a comparison to the journalist’s ideology with social media’s influence on film criticism. I think this is important to address when presenting a depiction of this which Buckland doesn’t do. In this day and age with everyone able to have their opinion, it seems like subjectivity have been taken out when you talk about film. Things with black and white what’s right or wrong, there is a lot of hate around this. You hear from people more who disagree with you, and there the sense that movies are ‘subjective’ has been really lost. This is a universe in which we live right now and it’s not a pretty place. A personal vitriol of not I disagree with you, but more like ‘I hate you’. I don’t think subjectivity have been lost, you just have to convey that message. With every filmmaker there is an audience. You are creating entertainment to help them escape to another world. So you have to develop your voice. You can’t just say it was merely good you have be able to put that in words with what you liked and what you disliked about it explaining why. 

The issue of subjectivity is that you’re not out there saying that ohh I know more about movies than you do and you’re dumb for liking it and I’m going to tell you why I’m right. No one is right or wrong about disliking a movie, it could be the worst movie of the year but someone could love it. One of the problems is that movie arguments/discussions often turn into a popularity contest. And then it is not about the strength of your argument, but about how many people agree with you or if someone well-respected agrees with you. This is what social media is doing and it becomes very bashful. In a way this falls under the perspective of how people’s ideology is affected by the environment around them. There are computers and machines everywhere and you are destined to be influenced by the popular opinion. These are found online and everyone starts butting heads about a singular opinion. In our current generation everyone will be influenced by the use of technology which contrasts the idea of this chapter which is the impression of reality. The usage of computers reflects reality through discussion; almost everything is the internet nowadays. These controversial opinions are built upon a lot of media discussed online, especially cinema. Cinema’s depiction of reality which was mentioned by the French journalists creates ideology that builds discussion online. This comparison to our modern day critique was something that lacked in Buckland’s writing even though the core examples and quotes used were very interesting. 

On a positive note, I love the way Buckland described Avant-garde cinema. There is a question as to why many people object to avant-garde cinema or can’t really absorb it. While he more than welcomes it, it has to do with the fact that it is much more comforting to see things in the way in which you are always seeing them, rather than to try to see them in a new way. There is something very comforting about dealing with the conventional and the conventional way of seeing; something very disturbing about seeing unusual things and things that may shock you. Hollywood and television are constantly giving us things that we’ve already seen. The most interesting films are precisely those that show things that have never been seen before or in a completely new way. This is something that sets many people or prevents them from appreciating what is being shown to them. On the other hand, the screen theory explains that it’s preferred to be upset and one of my main criteria in fact in looking at films and in writing about them is the unpredictability of what we see. 

All in all, the chapter had poignant themes that really gave me its hook. I do however feel like that Buckland wanted to cater to the philosopher’s ideology rather than his own. It’s contradictory to me that he writes a chapter about the idea of conveying one's thoughts and not really conveying many of his own. I can recommend this article to those who have an appreciation to the philosophy of ideology which has a lot to do with the love of cinema. Any filmmaker would find it captivating even if it lacks the personal touch created by its author. 

Buckland, Warren (2016) “The politics of form: a conceptual introduction to 'Screen theory',” Routledge Companion to Cinema and Politics. Ed. by Yannis Tzioumakis and Claire Molloy. Routledge: New York. p. 50-63.
Cankurt, Georgie. "Political Ideologies and Styles." SparkNotes. SparkNotes, 2006. Web. 19 Mar. 2017.
Nations, Daniel. "Serious Question: What Exactly Is Social Media?" Lifewire. Daniel Nation, 27 May 2009. Web. 19 Mar. 2017

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