Year after year the movies of the year pass by and we talk about them. We talk about them individually, we compile lists of our favourites and we talk about them some more. We might even talk about them comparatively as in X is better than Y because Z…and so on. But, oftentimes I feel we never really analyse them – especially comparatively. And, cinema is so rich thematically – we don’t consider it as we do things of literary origins – but even the films with the worst “story” are driven by themes and motifs.
So, in celebration of this 2011 I invited ten great bloggers for a blogging event, eleven cinematic motifs for 2011. I was tasked (no, really, no one picked this one) with looking at the workplace in 2011. Here goes.
“A job is not just a job. It's who you are.”
Sure, Repo Men is a film better left forgotten but it did provide me with the quotation. In olden days your surname was an indication of your job, so you essentially were your jobs. But, how many of us could say that the job we’re currently signifies any true details about ourselves? In fact, there’s another adage to combat the one above – “Don’t bring your work home with you.” Easier said than done. At first I thought I’d have a paucity of films to choose from when it came to looking at the workplace, but then I began perusing the eighty something films I’d seen this year and began to notice how “work” became dovetailed into a larger theme of “life”. So, consider that quote from the auspicious Repo Men as my hypothesis…herein I’ll try to prove or disprove it.
The Help took the world by storm (or, maybe just the United States) in August last year. Six months later people are still talking about them and one narrative that keeps regurgitating is the fact that the black women are relegated to playing maids. I’d rather not enter into a dissertation on the way race is addressed in cinema what that treatment suggests for different people, but it’s a bit curious how “maid” is being seen not as a job but as an indication of a person’s identity. Being a maid becomes not just something they’re doing to live but something they’re living to do. The job of being maid, because it’s so interpreted with historical perspectives and waiting on people, almost doesn’t emerge as a job because the home is the workplace which already presents a sort of quandary, but really shouldn’t…it’s not as if the maids aren’t doing a job. Thus, even if the narrative plays out like an oversimplified version of…well, everything it addresses, I like that it has the foresight to address the importance of the maid’s role immediately.
“You is kind. You is smart. You is important.”
It’s not unlikely to imagine that were it not for Aibileen little Mae Leefolt would never consider herself to be kind, smart or important. And, though on one hand it would, perhaps, be best if the ladies of The Help weren’t identified with their jobs, maybe it’s good that they are. Celia Foote is smart enough to know, “I really need a maid.” And, as much as Aibileen identifies with the children she takes care of, she’s able to walk away from her job at the film’s end. But, what happen after the credits roll, I wonder? What comes after work…? So much of Aibeleen’s nature seems inextricably linked to her desire to care for others…and one of the film’s single most poignant moments was Mae’s earnest utterance – “You’re my real mommy, Aibe.” Maybe Aibileen’s mothering nature is inextricably linked to the job she plays, and if being a “maid” means being a beacon for girls like Mae…maybe that’s okay?
And, it would seem that that’s the running theme of work in 2011 cinema. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy’s narrative is inundated with Smiley’s attempt to find that mole, and it’s a laudable task, but there’s the pervasive sense that he’s doing it less for the purpose at hand, and more because he has nothing else – just his jobs. Those few scenes after the credits before he’s brought back to the Circus are teeming with despondency – taking a swim, going to the optometrist, walking through the park. Without his job, he is nothing. In theory, it’s not bad to be dedicated to one’s job but in a film examining the sadness beneath the glamor of the espy Smiley’s non-existence outside the Circus is that much more sad. Yet, we cheer Smiley on for his dedication to the job. It’s in that same vein that we cheer on Jennifer Ehle’s Dr. Hextall (Contagionwho injects herself with a drug that’s in its testing stage and then exposes herself to the deadly virus. We would shirk at such foolhardy dedication in real life, but on film we applaud it. None of us would really die for our jobs, would we?
And, now, on to the real good stuff. Some great bloggers look at some more interesting themes....
Amir (Amiresque) realises that cinema on the whole may ultimately be about navigating between reality and fantasy link
and CS (Big Thoughts from a Small Mind) loves the way that the cinema celebrates the trials of the creator in rendering art (and other artistic pursuits) link
Nick (Cinema Romantico) wonders whether being a misanthropist is the answer…only the lonely… link
Craig (Dark Eye Socket) scrutinises the marriage bed, and he isn’t impressed link
Joanna (For Cinephiles by a Cinefille), though, thinks that there’s goodness to be found in solidarity and loyalty. link
Yojimbo (Let's Not Talk About Movies) ruminates on what really constitutes a coming of age link
Jose (Movies Kick Ass) takes a long-hard look at disillusionment in the 2011 cinematic landscape. link
Paolo (Okinawa Assault) ponders about relationships between parents and children link
Candice (Reel Talk) celebrates ♪friendship, friendship. It’s the perfect blendship. ♪ link
David (Victim of the Time) questions the manner in which the aging is examined link
So, that's everyone!
There you have 11 articles examining 11 motifs in cinema for 2011. A hearty thanks to these great bloggers, and I urge you to go read their articles, all of them good stuff examining that thing called cinema we all love.
Go. See. Talk. What motifs will remember most about 2011 in film? Sound off below.