In her article “From The Loveless to Pont Break: Kathryn Bigelow’s Trajectory in Action,” Christina Lane examines Kathryn Bigelow as a female artist through three of her independent films (The Loveless, Near Dark, and Blue Steel) and her first studio production, Point Break. Lane explores some formal, thematic, and feminist theories on Bigelow’s work, and presents common threads between the four films.
There seems to be a contradiction in Lane’s presentation of Bigelow, however, as she somewhat frames Bigelow as a postmodernist filmmaker. She begins by referencing Roland Barthes’s death of the author (from his 1970s film theoretical writings), which suggests that instead of belonging to one individual author, films are conglomerations of many individuals’s influences united for the reader/viewer to make sense and meaning of. Lane also refers to the meshing of genres, tropes, etc. within Bigelow’s films, suggesting a postmodernist approach that allows Bigelow to have her cake and eat it, too (for she provides enjoyable action films while also analyzing and deconstructing them).
This is contradictory to Lane’s consistent referral of Bigelow as a visionary author, approaching the director from a modernist perspective. This modernist stance on Bigelow is supported by, and brought into conversation with feminist concerns, an argument that violence against women in her films is somewhat insignificant. Lane stresses Bigelow’s perception, interpretation, and ability to articulate observations on violence to audiences as a demonstration of Bigelow’s power in a male-dominated field (whether it is feminist or not). Lane does suggest, though, that Bigelow’s female characters resist generic portrayals of women by finding their own time in the films’s narratives and interrupting male realms and plots. Characters like Telena and Debbie from The Loveless do not submit. In Near Dark, Mae stops Caleb from draining her of all her blood. And in Point Break, Tyler is a self-aware “wild one,” posing a struggle against the assumptions of male-dominated surf and law territory. Furthermore, Bigelow, as author, works to deconstruct generic expectations and tropes in her films, again supporting Lane’s tendency in painting Bigelow in a modernist light.
Lane also points out that Bigelow’s films place much emphasis on nature, which is usually depicted as more spiritual, complicated, and difficult to define in films such as Near Dark and Point Break. This suggests that “essential” gender depictions are irrelevant and unproductive. Themes of nature also call into question an ongoing theme of oscillating and choosing between two worlds, seen in Near Dark, Point Break, and The Hurt Locker. Accompanying this is a slight reoccurring theme of acquiring the proper language and vocabulary, such as surf lingo.
In this trailer for The Hurt Locker, you’ll notice both the emphasis on belonging in different worlds, and inheriting the vocabulary that accompanies them:
And at the end of the film, after Jeremy Renner’s character visits “home,” we see him return to his true home, that which he has found in the adrenaline and battle of the Iraq War.