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Formal possibilities

August 6, 2012

The disaster at Aurora, Colorado reminds film scholars of the birth of their obsession, Lumière brothers’ Arrival of a Train at La Ciotat, where, as the story goes, the audience bolted out of the theater at the sight of the train pulling into the station. A character coming out from behind the screen and opening fire seems like a dark prophesy realized, a medium’s natural development.

However, Dark Knight Rises, is not the only movie where we see bodies fall like rain, and while it fits the plot more than a movie like Ted, it yet remains unclear—and probably will remain so— why the killer chose this over hundreds of other feature fests of violence. There is nothing that makes Batman particularly different from other similar movies where the hero saves the day just before the whole planet, or America, is blown to pieces. Nor is the antagonist much more inspiring to identify with as he looks more like a failed proto-Darth Raider. But the move provides one of those instances that simultaneously represent the limits of structuralism, and the power of myth (the former’ watering hole).

While the movie clearly lacks structural cohesion, yet an obsolete form propels the drama where all inconsistencies lose relevant while remain intact. For the cynical viewer, (who watches the movie from the meta-position of being way beyond the spectacle, but just watching it to get entertained by watching the culture watching it), the discrepancies invite chuckles—admittedly this movie has the plot consistency of an alphabet soup, but yet it is shocking how the myth of Batman congeals the soup and keeps the projector running. What is yet more significant is how both the protagonist and the antagonist are masked and both are for the most part incomprehensible. One waits for the hero’s inspiring words, or his nemesis’ provocative ones, but instead hears them mumbling as if through an out of tune transistor radio. There is a gag of language, which is put into their mouths by the myth that mutes the words, while making them interchangeable, replaceable, both soaking in and drying them of meaning. It is only the gestures—the  communication of communicability in words of Agamben —that carries the film, and are these gestures what drives the cinematic form, not the words, and not the human faces behind the masked creatures. The muteness of the characters presents a kind of verbal confusion that is necessary to maintain mythic positions a place beyond words, “the gesture is essentially always a gesture of not being able to figure something out in language.” But at times, this verbal muteness might translate from words to rounds of ammunition. This by no means is to submit to one of those simulacrum theories of reality’s submission to image and such, rather, it is a question of manifestations of formal possibilities.

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