We started the class discussion beginning with paranoia. We defined it, and then discussed how it has arisen in class. First we went over the acid trip in the film Easy Rider, depicting Dennis Hopper and others violently tripping on acid. There were no special effects; however, through brilliant camera angles and acting, the acid trip is extremely life-like and absolutely fascinating.
We then talked about Shaw from The Manchurian Candidate, and how absolutely possessive his paranoia was, Shaw did not know what he was doing at all times during the day, he felt controlled, helpless, and absolutely paranoid, because he could not control his actions and did not know if he would be forced to murder someone at any time of the day. Living like this would be utterly unbearable and I think that is why the Manchurian Candidate strikes the viewer so deeply. It makes the viewer uncomfortable, the viewer has no idea of what is going on, and truthfully the viewer, themselves, becomes paranoid. This sort of paranoia that leaps off the screen into the viewers minds is absolutely incredible and a real sign that a film is a great one.
After discussing paranoia, we started talking about the short film, New Improved Institutional Quality: In the Environment of Liquids and Nasals a Parasitic Vowel Sometimes Develops. The title of this movie is quite long for a short film, but I found the film to be absolutely hilarious and entertaining. We first delved into the satirical aspects of the film, looking at how funny and stupid the main character looked trying to draw numbers on different objects around a house while at the same time looking completely confused. We went over these topics and then a student in the class said that these films were pointless, I obviously disagreed with his point and an engaging argument ensued. What are the purposes of these short films? I believe that one won’t get anything of out of them if we look for a beginning middle and end or a full film; however, the purpose is to convey a specific aspect in many different ways. This specific film showed how stupid people are taking tests, and how we feel obliged to follow directions from an unknown higher voice, just because it is a higher voice.
Angel, another student then did a great presentation on his article and after that we watch a clip from the exorcist and further discussed how paranoia was manifested into the minds of all who watched that movie. I mean I would have been scared back then if I had seen that. Afterwards, we watched a clip of Taxi Cab, and then got onto the real discussion of the true paranoia.
We started watching The Conversation and talked about the ending of the film where the camera panning mimics a surveillance camera, Gene Hackman, the main character at this point realizes that he will always be watched no matter what, he will always play his saxophone in his apartment and face the wall, he gives up on his own privacy and rests in his apartment, this is his last resort. We then watched a clip of Gene attaching a surveillance device in a bathroom and when he witnesses a girl being murdered. There is very little sound at the beginning of the scene and this creates an intense suspense. Out of nowhere a really loud screaming sound reverberates in his mind and becomes part of the soundtrack playing, it almost sounds as if it is reverberating in our own heads as we watch the film.
In a way, the film talks about the balance between freedom and surveillance, how much freedom are we willing to give up in order to be surveilled? and be safe? If we give up too much freedom will we become highly paranoid like Gene Hackman and resort to only using a pay phone to make phone calls and live a life of recluse? Must we sacrifice all of this just be safe?