Monday, 31 October 2011

The Cabinet of Dr Caligari (1920) Film Review

Directed by Robert Wiene, The Cabinet of Dr Caligari is arguably one of the most influential films in the history of film making and laid the foundations for the modern day silver screen. Werner Krauss plays the role of Dr Cagliari, a carnival hypnotist who's main attraction is a somnambulist named Cesare. After a series of murders take place in a quaint German village the audience discover Dr Caligari is not just a mere 
showman and entertainer but the blackhearted mastermind behind them, or so it seems.

The hero of the film Francis (Friedrich Feher) goes on a wild goose chase to uncover the murderer who is stalking the village.  He is the stereotypical hero of silent films, driven by the will to do right and save those which he loves in this case his fiancée, Jane (Lil Dagover). Francis suspects Dr Caligari of being the perpetrator and pursues the man he believes is responsible. 

The Cabinet of Dr Caligari is perhaps best know as being the film that heralded German Expressionism and Film Noir to cinema. The sharp pointed edges and unbalance of the scenery give the notion that it is a world in chaos and peculiarity "The bizarre slants and diagonals result in vivid, dreamlike logic and a terrifying lack of control." (Anderson,2008) While most films of the day focused on making the environment perfect The Cabinet of Dr Caligari did not "Radical distortions immediately set the film apart from earlier ones, which were based on the camera's innate tendency to record reality."(Ebert, 2009). This technique has been adopted by many other directors up until the present day, including Tim Burton in the 90's classic 'Edward Scissorhands'.  The set looks overtly fake and cheap, the jagged cardboard edges and peculiar quilted designs are completely out of character for films of this era. However as the tale unfolds and the audience are pulled to the dramatic twist at the end Wiene's reasoning for constructing a set in this manner become apparent. "When the ultimate revelation comes in the film's final minutes-the many pieces of the quixotic puzzle fall into their perfectly logical places.(Humanick, 2007)

In the nail biting climax of the film we find that the flashback of Francis is all imagined in his fantasy world.The audience discover that he, Cesare and his beloved Jane are in fact patients at the local insane asylum and the man known as Caligari is the asylum doctor responsible for looking after Francis. The scenery is strongly influenced by psychoanalysis and this unsymmetrical environment illustrates the unbalance in the mind of Francis.

List of Illustrations

Fig 1. The surreal setting
Fig 2.  Jane
Fig 3. Cesare


Jeffery M Anderson of Combustible Celluloid (published February 13 2008) (accessed on 01,11,2011)

Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun Times (published June 3 2009) (accessed on 01,11,2011)

Rob Humanick of Projection Booth (published January 13 2007) (accessed on 01,11,2011)

Initial Thumbnails

This was a quick photoshop thumbnail of an Amazon undergrowth i worked into.

Influence map: Mountains and Scenery

Influence Map 3: Swamps and the Amazon Rivers

Influence map: Waterfalls

Influence Map: Undergrowth and Redwood Trees

The idea of having shots of the undergrowth gives the viewer a sense of insignificance at the sheer size of the Amazon. In my first chosen extract of the Lost World redwood trees are rife. They are enormous in size, dwarfing everything around them. They are also very vibrant in colour with reds and orange which contrast well with the dull greens and olive colours.

Unit 2: Space


For the Unit 2 Brief we have each been assigned a novel, all of which are renowned for their illustrative scenery. Our task is to analyse specific extracts of our book and develop concept drawings of the chosen scenes. The book i will be studying is 'The Lost World' by Arthur Conan Doyle. The plot of the novel is an interesting one I feel I could work into a lot. The plot summary of The Lost World is a Reporter, Edward Malone whom along with Scientist George Edward Challenger go on an expedition into an uncharted territory in South America. As they delve deeper into the swamp lands they discover prehistoric animals that have survived.

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Unit 1 Presentation

CGAA Unit 1

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

The Black Swan Film Review

The Black Swan Poster Art

The Black Swan is a psychological thriller staring Natalie Portman as Nina Sayers, an aspiring ballerina whom lands the role of the Swan Queen in the New York City Ballet Company's production of the widely acclaimed Swan Lake. Directed by Darren Aronofsky Black Swan delves deep into the psyche of Nina. As the film progresses the audience become entangled in the monstrous pursuit of perfection where jealousy, anger and bitterness are at a boil in the young dancers mind.

A predominantly female cast, all of whom opitimize surface beauty. Even Nina's over bearing, neurotic mother has a certain spark of a woman once beautiful and idolised now reduced to living her dreams and fantasies through her daughter. Peter Bradshaw of the Guardian describes Nina's mother played by veteran actress Barbera Hershey as "A difficult mother who abandoned her own stagnant ballet career on being impregnated by some heartless, mercurial mogul or other, and channelled her rage and disappointment into coaching the resulting daughter" (2011) . The Film presents to the audience that beauty really is only skin deep as behind the stage curtains the apparently beautiful ballet dancers are self centered monsters savouring the schadenfreude in others particularly the newly crowned Swan Queen.

Nina becomes compacted in this world so ugly even your own mother would stab you in the back given an opening. Her mind becomes like an animal in a cage being prodded and jeered at by her peers. At first vulnerable, cowering and looking for the nearest exit she eventually snaps and falls into a whirlwind of insanity, consumed by bitterness and jealousy towards Lily, a rival at the ballet company. Her jealousy stems from Lily's ability to live as a free spirit and dance impulsively and not out of an awkward sense to please.

The use of mirrors in the Black Swan emphasises appearence and self awareness. Nina is aware of how she is percieved by others and is obsessed by her imperfections. "Crammed with twins — lookalikes, mirrored images, doppelgängers." (Dargis,2010)  This obsession rots away inside her, the slow decomposition of her mental state is clear to the audience as a slow cancerous process. The mirrors also present the awareness of mortality. That physical beauty is not eternal and like Ninas mental state will also wither and become decrepit. "Black Swan does a fine job of exploring not just the prima ballerina competition and the toll it takes on an individual, but also the psyche of a person who most probably has obsessive-compulsive disorder . . . and maybe more." (Plath,2011)

In addition the use of colour in the film depicts Nina's descent into madness. The contrast between white and black is referenced throughout the entire film expressing the dualities between good and evil, something which everyone possesses.Nina's tranformation through the predominantly white scenes, turning to black, a colour that does not emit or relect light showing the pureness of the Swan Queen has been washed away. The colour also commonly symbolises death. The obsessive jealousy, the ugly pursuit of perfection, her darkness consumes her to her untimely end.

 List Of Illustrations

Fig 1. Beautiful Nina
Fig 2. Nina's descent into madness.
Fig 3. The Black Swan (Images accessed on 20/10/2011)


Peter Bradshaw of 'The Guardian' (published 20,01,2011)  (accessed 20,10,2011)

James Plath of 'DVD Town' (published 03,31,2011)  (accessed 20,10,2011)

Manohla Dargis of 'The NY Times' (Published 02,12,2010) (accessed 20,10,2011)

Sunday, 16 October 2011

@ PHIL feedback on essay draft


This is a study investigating Human/Animal hybrids in Modern Art and what society values in regards to human life. Key references will be extracted from "Tales from Ovid by Ted Hughes (1997)" which contains shape shifting poems expressing human nature and morality. Captions from " The Naturally Artificial World, A conversation between Patricia Piccinini and Laura Fernandex Orgaz (2007)" will be analysed to show the artists intentions when creating her sculptures.. "The Mirror Stage by Jacques Lacan (1936)" will give a Psychoanalytic insight into infants emerging perceptions of selfhood and vulnerability. Quotes from published reviews will be obtained from “The Artistic Experiments of Patricia Paccinini by Megan J Doll” “Patricia Piccinini- Related Individuals by Sarah Hetherington” “On Patricia Piccinini by John Matthews” “Unforced Intimacies: Review by Marcus Bunyan” Images of Piccinini's work will be obtained  from  " " . Specifically this assignment will be analysing Greek Mythology and the works of Patricia Piccinini an Australian realist sculptor and the message they convey in relation to discrimination, acceptance and the vulnerability animals and humans share alike.

 Main Essay

The idea of a human metamorphosis has been present since the Babylonian times with mythological creatures such as Tiamat, the Babylonian chaos monster of the ocean. Arguably the most renowned hybrid myths still discussed to the present day are that of the Ancient Greeks. A common theme in Greek Myths that have stood the test of time is that the para-human is always perceived to be villainous. Creatures such as the Minotaur whom had the body of a man and the head of a bull. The Minotaur was held in the Cretan Labyrinth for barbarously eating humans, it was here the creature was eventually killed by Theseus. The hideous appearance of the Minotaur was a reflection of its disposition, its ugly nature. The same can be said for Nessus, a centaur that was killed by Heracles after attempting to rape Deianira.

"Dejanire clung there, White with fear-
 Between her dread of the river
And her dread of the goat eyed centaur.
Who now plunged straight into
The high-riding boils of brown water" (Hughes, Tales of Ovid, 1997:151)

In Ted Hughes' poem "Hercules and Dejanira" based on Roman Poet Ovid's narrative poem "Metamorphoses" it is expressed that Dejanira is terrified by the grotesque appearance of Nessus before there was any indication of his true agenda. Based on looks and presence, a visceral assumption was made by Dejanira on the character of the centaur. Little has changed since the earliest civilisations in regards to appearance and acknowledgement of ones self image. Humans in their nature will distance themselves from entities that are unfamiliar to them including people. When studying "The Law of Attraction", William Walker Atkinson coined the phrase "Like Attracts Like". People instinctively determine interpersonal attraction by finding similarities of themselves in others whether it be ethnicity, appearance or religion. This notion is possibly why different racial groups separate themselves from others or why, on the broader spectrum minorities are discriminated against by the larger groups. In the case of the Minotaur, the creature was forced to dwell in the Labyrinth not only because of its ferocious nature but because of its inhuman appearance

Deianeira and the Centaur Nessus- Guido Reni(1617-21)

Para-human hybrids in Art and Film tend to be focused on the distinct differences between animals and humans, the barriers that set the two apart. They are often perceived to be frightening as they encapsulate the primitive nature of animals. Piccinini however outlines the similarities between animals and humans as opposed to differences. The Artists work depicts the hybrids in an emotional state the viewer can build a connection with. A common theme of Piccinini's work is vulnerability. In the case of 'The Foundling' (2008) a mutant infant is lying in a baby carrier covered by a blanket, wearing a thick woollen hat”The foundling's vulnerable eyes are larger than life, disproportionate to its face, and they stare up at the viewer pleading for attention and begging to be nurtured." (Hetherington 12, 11,2008). In human nature as well as in animals there is a natural maternal instinct, although 'The Foundling' is in essence an unsightly obscurity the viewer feels a sense of sorrow for the creature and the impulse to care for it. In contrast this could also represent child neglect, another trait shared between humans and animals. Many species of animal will reject their young if the newborn carries a deformity or is deemed too weak to care for. Survival of the fittest is present in any society be it animal or human. There is a sense of tragedy about 'The Foundling' because the ambiguity and contrasting emotions involved, a sense of wanting to help something so fragile but also being repelled by its appearance similar to impulsively killing a spider out of terror but feeling a sense of guilt afterwards.

The Foundling-Patricia Piccinini (2008)

This sense of vulnerability is again present in Piccinini's 'The Bottom Feeder (2009)'. It depicts a chimera with parts of several animals, the back and shoulders of a human, the extremities of a marsupial, the rear of a mountain goat and the enlarged head of a newt. The posture of the bottom feeder is passive, exposed and completely unprotected which is contrasting with the way chimeras are often depicted in history, often seen as strong, fearsome creatures such as the griffin. "Inevitably the viewer is drawn to the exposed rump through a seemingly unforced interactivity, examining the folds and flaps of the labia and the hanging scrotum of this succulent feeder. Here Piccinini draws on psychoanalysis and Lacan’s theory of the mirror stage in a child’s development." (Bunyan 01, 11,2009) Dr Marcus Bunyan makes comparisons between the sculpture and Jacques Lacan's 'Mirror Stage Theory' in children. The Bottom Feeder is aware and has a clear perception of selfhood and its own vulnerability. The viewer arguably gets a sense of empathy from studying the bottom feeder as most people have felt this kind of vulnerability without means of protecting themselves. Piccinini states "Empathy is at the heart of my practice. I don't think that you really can - or indeed should - try to understand the ethics of something without emotions." (The Naturally Artificial World,2007). Piccinini seems to be correct when she states you can not truly understand the ethics of something without emotion as the viewer can determine the morality of the artist sculptures and what message the convey.

'The Bottom Feeder'-Patricia Piccinini (2009)

'The Long Awaited' (2008)  depicts a young boy on a bench sleeping with a naked, wrinkled human/seal hybrid. The sculpture looks tranquil and there is a sense of harmony between the boy and the creature. "The boy too is ambiguous, his features hint at Down's Syndrome but the most striking figure is the way his tiny hand cradles the creature's immense head.  'The Long Awaited' speaks eloquently of acceptance and benediction." (Matthews 05,05,2009). The sense of harmony comes from not only the Down's Syndrome child's acceptance of the hybrid but the hybrid's acceptance of the  Down's Syndrome child almost as if they empathise with one another. Humans in their nature are often products of their environment. Their behaviour, the manner in which they integrate with others and how they treat that which is deemed unusual is determined by their peers and surroundings while growing up. It is possible Piccinini is also conveying childlike innocence in her sculptures, the idea that children do not distinguish between race, sex, age or creed forces the viewer to question their own morality. The title 'The Long Awaited' could even suggests the artist wanting to break the barriers that have long segregated different groups of people.
This notion is also apparent in 'Still Life with Stem Cells' (2002) a sculpture depicting a young girl interacting with several fleshy, formless mounds "She smiles complacently, her gaze abstractedly fixed upon a stem cell situated in front of her. Her left hand rests upon a mound at her knee as she
cradles yet another cell in her right arm, seemingly recognizing it as a fellow
sentient being" (Doll 09,2003)
The underlining theme here is what form of life do we deem worthy. There is a pecking order in the animal kingdom with humans at the top but who is to determine what life is worthless and what is worthy. Piccinini executed this idea by using perhaps the lowest form of life, a stem cell.

Top: 'The Long Awaited'-Patricia Piccinini (2008)
                                                                      Bottom: 'Still Life with Stem Cells'-Patricia Piccinini (2002)


In conclusion, Analysis of both Greek Mythology and Patricia Piccinini's sculptures demonstrates presenting Hybrids in a different light from each other however both giving insight into human's harsh treatment of outsiders, whether shutting them away from the world or making a spectacle of them there is a hierarchy in society based on appearance and self image. Arguably there is a sense of empathy as humans build a visceral emotional connection with the outsider as they can relate to the feelings of vulnerability and sorrow at a misfortune. However of the people who do feel a sense of deep inward empathy, very few will acknowledge outsiders existence through fear of being different. Becoming outsiders themselves.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

'Splice' Film Review

Splice Poster Art

Vincenzo Natali's Science Fiction Horror film 'Splice' is in essence scientists trying to broaden humans understanding of modern medicine by genetically engineering a new species. Conducted with selfish intentions, Scientists Clive Nicoli and Elsa Kast commit perhaps the biggest sin, playing God. This is one of the most common Sci-Fi horror clichés whereby scientists delve into the unknown, and end up creating a monstrous creature. "Like just about every science experiment in the history of cinema, things get a bit out of hand" (Halfyard,2010). Splice however, inspite of its theme is seperated from other horror films that share the same moniker because it is relates to the current agendas of Genetic Engineering. With recent events such as the human cells that were fused with rabbit eggs at the Shanghai Second Medical University in 2003 or the 150 human-animal embryos that were created in British Laboratories throughout 2010 Natali has touched on a subject that is relevant and very potent at the current time.

Dren (Nerd spelt backwards) a human-animal hybrid is the fruit of Clive and Elsa's experiments. We see Drens transition from an innocent and curious infant to a rebellious teenager to monterous adult in that similar to a human. Freudian psychology plays a part in the morality of Splice, the biggest example of this is the Oedipus Complex Dren expresses in both female and male form. The urge to sexually possess her father figure and kill her mother figure is more repressed in Drens female state showing her human characteristics. Once transformed into a male however Dren rapes his mother and kills his father. This inability to distinguish between right and wrong shows the animal side of the para-human.

Elsa's true intentions for creating Dren are made apparent later in the film when she expresses her views on children and raising a family are different than Clive's. We find that Elsa endured an abusive relationship with her mother which is why she had dreams of living in a stylish and sleek apartment as a way to separate her from the rural farm she was brought up in. She does not want to bear children because of her abusive past so sees her creation as the child she never had. Although Elsa's maternal instincts kick in when Dren is young her methods of raising her eventually become mean spirited and cruel as it was how she was brought up. "These are not perfect people, but you don't quite realise how messed up they are until it's too late, which makes for some superbly tense scenes." (Turner, 2010).

It could be argued that Dren, however monstrous in its actions was merely running on animal instincts and the real monsters infact were the genetic engineers whom created the hybrid for personal gain.
"It is fascinating to see the arrogant human scientists revealed as monsters, even as the ‘monstrous’ Dren reveals her complex, vulnerable humanity." (Floyd, 2010). This is reminiscent of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein whereby we see the creator as the real monster.

List of Illustrations

Fig 1. First encounter with Dren
Fig 2. Dren attacks Elsa
Fig 3. Dren's sexual desire towards her father figure Clive


Kurt Halfyard 'Twitch Film' (Published January 22, 2010) (Accessed on October 12 2011)

Matthew Turner 'Veiw London' (Published July 22,2010)  (Accessed on October 12 2011) 
Nigel Floyd 'Timeout' (Published July 21,2010)  (Acccessed on October 12 2011)

'La Belle et la Bête' Film Review

La belle et la Bete Poster Art

Directed by Jean Cocteau in 1946, 'La Belle et la Bête' tells the story of Belle, a merchants daughter whom falls in love with the grotesque and insightly Bête. Upon picking a rose from Bête's garden an old merchant is confronted by the creature and told he must die unless one of his daughters takes his place. His youngest and most loving daughter Belle courageously offers to take her fathers place. The Beast instantly falls in love with Beauty and reveals beyond his frightening exterior lies a heart that is yearning to be loved.

"The Beast's dwelling is one of the strangest ever put on film--Xanadu crossed with Dali." (Ebert,1999).  The haunting architecture of the castle is shrouded in mystery which intensifies the curiousity into The Beasts background. "The castle is at once an enchanted palace and a stifling prison." (Miller, 2002). With the candelbras in the entrance hall being held by human arms and the living statues following visitors around the room The Castle has a human element in the same way Bête does, it is apparent this dwelling shared The Beasts metamorphosis into this ugly, unapprochable entity.

There are many references in the film to The Beast's primal instincts such as Belle waiting at the dining table for Bête to present himself. He appears behind her and approaches silently like a Lion lying in wait to kill a Gazelle. It could also be argued this also relates to the sexual desires of the beast, something which is more repressed in humans than animals.

"Appearances are visceral as well as visual." (Cavitch, 2011) With his lack of emotion and terrifying presence early in the film, the audience is forced to make an instant judgement of Bête in the same way the villagers do, seeing him as this monstrous abomination. As the film progresses however The Beast is shown in his true light and he is no longer perceived as this villainous character but a soft, gentle creature with a human heart.  The morality of this film appears to be based on the premise that you should never judge a book by its cover. This notion could easily be misconstrued as although it appears this is the case with Bête it is also made apparent that Belle is favoured by Avenant her brothers friend and the other villagers not just for her character but essentially her good looks.

List of Illustrations

Fig 1. The Beast and the Beauty.
Fig 2. Bête in love with Belle
Fig 3. The Beast approaching a cautious Belle

Images from   


Roger Ebert of 'The Chicago Sun Times' (Published December 26, 1999) (Accessed on October 12 2011)

Michael Miller of 'The Village Voice' (Published August 13, 2002)  (Accessed on October 12 2011)
Max Cavitch of 'Slant Magazine' (Published July 16, 2011)  (Accessed on October 12 2011)

Monday, 10 October 2011

Maya Dice

Absolutely hated doing this, took 10 times longer than I should of and the outcome is naff. Learning curve I guess

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Essay Introduction

This essay is a study investigating the cultural impact of metamorphosis and hybridisation from two different periods in history, Ancient Greece and the 20th century up to the present day. The idea of a human metomorposis has been present since the Babylonian times with mythological creatures such as Tiamat, the Babylonian chaos monster of the ocean. The impact of hybrid creatures greatly differs in not only different cultures but different periods in history. Keys points in this assignment will be based upon reference material from "Exploring Mythology in Classical Literature and Art,","Metamorphosis" (Franz Kafta,1915),"John Landis's An American Werewolf in London" (1981). This essay will focus on human perception on what is deemed a good or bad omen in the animal kingdom based on behavioural traits.

Back to the Drawing Board

After my feedback from Phil, I reflected on the work I had done. Essentially the thumbnails and concept idea I have done so far are going down the boring route of 'the head of a man, the body of a scorpion' which is not the creative direction I want to go. I feel perhaps the reason for this is I haven't reasearched into the characteristics of the scorpion enough. I decided to create more thumbnails and to play around with different ideas.

'The Elephant Man' Film Review

David Lynch's 'The Elephant Man' synthesises human compassion aswell as human callousness and shows that beauty really is only skin deep. John Merrick portayed by John Hurt, was a grotesquely disfigured man from 19th century London whom is mocked and jeered by the public due to his unfortunate ailment. As we live in a current age of compassion and understanding for that which is deemed 'unusual' or 'obscure' the knowledge that this film depicts not just a character in a film but a real human being whom was forced to live like an animal is a poignant notion to how savage humans can be.

As the EMI trailer for the film eloquently observed "You will feel the chill of horror, yet this is not a horror story; You will feel the warmth of love, yet this is not a love story." David Lynch intentionally prolongs the first glimpse of John Merrick's face so suspense is built, making it all the more frightening when he is finally presented to the audience. "Brutalised by a childhood in which he was hideously abused as an inhuman freak,he was gradually coaxed into revealing a soul of such delicacy and refinement that he became a lion of Victorian society." (Milne,2006). Believed to be retarded because of his incoherent speech Frederick Treaves a prominent surgeon at the London Hospital takes in Merrick for medical analysis and finds that infact he is a deeply intellegent and cultured man.

"The Elephant Man uses some of the devices of the horror film, including ominous music, sudden cuts that shock, and hints of dark things to come, but it's a very benign horror film, one in which "the creature" is the pursued instead of the pursuer."(Canby,1980).The notion that Merrick is mobbed by crowds of people abusing him is reminiscent of a pack of animals with no politics, no morality, no line drawn between right and wrong which is contrasted with this so called 'freak' who inspite of appearence, is a warm hearted soul who yearns to be accepted by society. "Lynch exposed undercurrents of metaphysical anguish and absurdist fear, along with an accessible tale of Merrick's nobility." (Levy,2006)

Arguably one of the defining moment of the film was Merrick watching the theatre performance, The (so called) 'Elephant Man' now watching in on others performing for entertainment in a manner of sophistication and not of the savage life he had previously endured.

List of Illustrations
Fig 1 'The Terrible Elephant Man'
Fig 2 'John Merricks Hood'
Fig 3 'The Sensitive,Cultured Elephant Man'


EMI Film Trailer (1980)

Tom Milne of 'Time Out London' (published January 26 2006)
' (Accessed on October 5 2011)
Vincent Canby of The NY Times (Published October 3 1980) Tomatoes (Accessed on October 5 2011)

Emanuel Levy, Independent Reviewer (Published June 22 2006) (Accessed on October 5 2011)