09 October 2006

Art direction

With the way Americans seem not to have noticed that we have legalized torture and permanent detention in the US, I'm thinking about art direction. Yeah, art direction.

See, I had mixed feelings about the film adaptation of V for Vendetta, but in at least one respect I thought it was an improvement over Moore and Lloyd's original graphic novel.

In the novel, David Lloyd's detailed linework and use of muted colours not only looked like dreary, gray, rainy England ... it looked like you would imagine a dystopian, fascist England should look. Michael Radford acheived the same thing with the brilliant photography and production design in his film adaptation of Orwell's 1984.

Not to knock David Lloyd's brilliant work in V, but the film actually does something more subversive with its look and tone during the first act. Things just look normal. And people act normally. There are signs that they're living in a fascist society—there are creepy propaganda posters scattered here and there—but people aren't talking about it constantly. They're talking about work, and what they're going to have for lunch, and other ordinary things. Because that's what a totalitarian society looks like, not Lloyd's art or Radford's movie.

This reminder is important, because as IOZ observes:

You talk about Soviet America, or Fascist America, and people look at you like you're nuts because, after all, where are the bread lines? Where is the uniform drabness (well, okay, there's plenty of that)? Where is the oppressive misery?

We seem to believe that every single person in an oppressive regime or one party state spends his days smoking stale cigarettes and waiting to buy stale bread with his stale government paycheck on a dim street in atmospheric drizzle while the party newspaper blows by and a baby carriage rolls down the stairs, or whatever. But hey, there were plenty of Muscovites who lived high and fine during even the slender years of Soviet decline, and there were certainly plenty of Germans and Italians living fine and dandy pretty much until the bombs started falling on their cities.

I found that by way of Jim Henley, who alludes to it before he suggests that maybe the way to think of slip of the US into a corrupt, repressive one-party state is not like Nazi Germany or Soviet Russia but like Mexico.

Mexico was a nominally multiparty democracy with all the ceremonies you’d expect but functional one-party rule by a corrupt ruling class willing to use just the level of targeted violence and vote fraud required to keep control. And it was frequently sunny with some great beaches if you could afford them. A very bad place to be between a police captain or party official and something he wanted, and a poor country—that’s how corrupt party-states end up—but by no means the least pleasant place on earth. In your mind the film of Soviet Russia is always black and white and way too cold, but you can only see your mental movie of Mexico in technicolor.

As I've alluded to before, the Germans of the Nazi era thought they were free. And I've said before, American fascism would have to look like a Norman Rockwell painting. So art direction isn't the thing to look for, if you want to know whether it's fascism yet.

Congress just passed a law saying that the President can order people locked up and tortured indefinitely without them ever having a trial. Is it fascism yet? When, exactly, will it be?


Anonymous said...

Sort of a side note: some of my friends said that they felt uplifted at the "happy" ending of V. But I felt more depressed, because I don't believe there will be a day where all of America stands up and says, "Enough." If not now, when? What more has to happen? Actual Federal persecution of Christians, I suppose. That would get the sleeper's attention.


Kamran and Tori said...

This is what I have learned about freedom after 3 years living in Iran:

1. Freedom of speech is for people who actively disagree with the ruling powers -- (by this, I mean that other people don't use those freedoms all that much anyway);

2. Freedom of speech trumps democracy;

3. Most people prefer security to freedom;

4. Most people prefer being cared for than taking care of themselves.

And I agree: the ending of V depressed me as well. I did not think people would be so willing to give up their lives for the promise of freedom.

4. Most people w

Hecate said...

It's fascism. Note the incorporation of religion with nationalism with machismo with corporate ascendency. Note the constant need for an "other" be it gay, Moslem, brown, uppity woman, etc., etc.

I figured once they started talking about the "Homeland" we were basically all the way there anyway.