An Inappropriate Comparison: The Coup d'état and Ken Loach’s Contribution to the 9/11 Film by Alain Brigand
Ken Loach and His Part in the 9/11 Film
For this paper, the ART has been chosen because of an ongoing debate, whether one can examine the meaning and effect of a film by looking at its genre: “This debate is part of a wider concern running right through media and cultural studies that genre analysis tends to limit the ways in which the meanings of texts can be explored”. This is due to because “without an audience no text or maker of that text would exist”. On the other hand, one should examine genre as well, according to Bernard Dick: “As movie audiences grow increasingly diverse, there is little likelihood that there will ever be an all-embracing theory of film reception – only more studies, both sociological and psychological, on spectator response”. So, in one word, “reception studies eliminates [sic!] the need to examine production since meaning is produced by the reader”. Staiger continues and contradicts that this very position is “dangerous, because that interference only inverts fallacious binary oppositions: producer/consumer, author/reader”. Because of that, we are going to inspect both the structure and reception of the film to underline the thesis declaring it inappropriate.
Table of Content
Subject of the Paper and Research Question
Structure of the Paper
Analysis of the Conflict Structure
Analyses of the film
Key Scenes of the Conflict Structure
Comparing Ken Loach and Other Directors of the Omnibus Project
An Inappropriate Comparison? A Summary of the Facts
Subject of the Paper and Research Question
Ken Loach’s episode of the omnibus project 9’11’’01 – September 11 describes the event of the terror attack of New York when thousands of people lost their lives. Because of that and the fact that film is “[…] the most powerful and realistic of the arts […]” (Boggs 5), this paper wants to critically analyse it, regarding the reception theory, because “media massages are always open and ‘polysemic’ […] and are interpreted according to the context and the culture of receivers” (McQuail 73). Due to the Audience Response Theory, “[a film] is encoded according to the meaning structure of the mass media production organization and its main supports, but decoded according to the different meaning structures and frameworks of knowledge of different situated audiences” (McQuail 73-74). This is being widened by Metz, who points out the similarity of the theory and cultural signs: “The fact that must be understood is that films are understood” (Metz 77). He states that a film includes cultural signs which are transmitted by a significate and a signifier. The created meaning, however, is received by viewers. This gives the paper not just the purpose of researching but of critically analysing the director’s way of presenting, as well. Henceforward, his way of depicting is considered being inappropriate, which is the thesis of this paper and needs to be proven throughout.
Structure of the Paper
The paper starts with its introduction, which depicts structure, method, theory and research. Afterwards, the main part analysis the film itself. Chapter three focusses on examined key sections of the film and discusses, why specific situations can be described as inappropriate regarding the theory. Finally, the paper will be concluded by a summary in chapter four.
The theory is constructed according to Patrick Phillips (cf. Phillips 162-169) and sets the background. The paper should, however, examine why Ken Loach’s approach was inappropriate. To do so, it is not necessary to investigate an exact reception of the film, but to point out why it should have been done differently. The second half of the main part is analytic, because it is used to contradict or prove arguments. Finally, chapter four will combine theory and empirical evidence to be able to answer the research question.
For this paper, the Audience Response Theory has been chosen because of an ongoing debate, whether one can examine the meaning and effect of a film by looking at its genre: “This debate is part of a wider concern running right through media and cultural studies that genre analysis tends to limit the ways in which the meanings of texts can be explored” (Wharton and Grant 23). This is due to because “without an audience […] no text or maker of that text would exist” (Staiger, Interpreting films 3). On the other hand, one should examine genre as well, according to Bernard Dick: “As movie audiences grow increasingly diverse, there is little likelihood that there will ever be an all-embracing theory of film reception – only more studies, both sociological and psychological, on spectator response” (Dick 369-370). So, in one word, “[…] reception studies eliminates [sic!] the need to examine production since […] meaning is produced by the reader” (Staiger, Interpreting films 3). Staiger continues and contradicts that this very position is “dangerous […] because that interference only inverts fallacious binary oppositions: producer/consumer, author/reader” (Staiger, Interpreting films 3). Because of that, we are going to inspect both the structure and reception of the film to underline the thesis declaring it inappropriate. All in all, one can quote Patrick Phillips, who both summarizes and supports this method: “Rather, it is perhaps most useful to think in terms of an eclectic approach, taking whatever seems useful and productive” (Phillips 169), which eliminates all contra arguments of the theory (cf. Machor and Goldstein 319-344), as none of them comes into force.
“The essence of [this] ‘reception approach’, [then], is to locate the attribution and construction of meaning […] with the receiver” (McQuail 73), which sets up the definition of our theory: Reception analysis “[…] takes the perspective of the audience rather than the media sender and looks at the immediate […] interpretation and meaning of the whole experience as seen by the recipient” (McQuail 569).
Although the film is produced in a documentary style, it functions as a cultural sign. This is very important and defines the basis of the analysis, as the film itself transports meaning – not just the genre. Dick set up eight facts on which, however, the recipient’s reaction depends. Hereby, two of them are important for the paper as they underline the functions of the theory: Type of film, as a documentary is “creative treatment of actuality” (Wells 169), which needs further investigation, whether the product is reliable, or, in this case, appropriate. Level of identification, hence it describes the case in which the spectator identifies with the protagonist in the movie. This is vital, because directors need to shoot the film in a specific way. Close shots for examples create sympathy, emotion, and a high chance of identification, which underlines the necessity of looking at the structure as well.
The most important authors in the historical research basis are Brunsdon, Morley, Buckingham, and Hansen. This very paper, though, sets itself apart from the historical development of the theory and therefore must name Janet Staiger, James Monaco, Bernard Dick, and Jill Nelmes as most important representatives of both, theory and analysis. Although “for cultural studies, the late 1980s were dominated by what came to be called ‘audience studies’” (Hill 199), it later developed to a more output oriented debate with discourse about practicality, in which McQuail is to be named as being central. He not just depicts the most important facts of the theory but is able to present it in a practical and hence useful way, as well.
Regarding the paper’s topic, one should define the term ‘inappropriate’ first, to be able to deal the question. While the Oxford Online Dictionary states a general explanation, saying it is a behaviour, “not suitable or proper in the circumstances” (English Oxford Dictionary), the MacMillan glossary goes even further: “Behaviourthat youthinkiswrongbecause it ismorally wrongor againstacceptablesocialorprofessionalstandards” (MacMillan Dictionary). These two terms perfectly define the range of meaning needed for this paper.
Moreover, the distinction between audience and spectator, which can be found in research, is not of importance, as the paper just deals with the film’s inappropriateness (cf. Phillips 144, 147).
Although Ken Loach is just the director of one single episode, he is described as the film’s director, due to simplicity of reading.
Analysis of the Conflict Structure
To answer the research question we first should analyse Ken Loach’s movie. Afterwards, the set-up parameters will simplify the empirical evaluation. According to research of the reception theory by Patrick Phillips, Jean Monaco, and Benjamin Beil, the analysis will focus on codes der mise-en-scène (what is being filmed) and c odes der mise-en-cadre (how it is filmed) (cf. Beil 21-22).
Analyses of the film
The film starts with the introduction of the protagonist. Pablo, who stays nameless until the very end of the episode (Loach 1’12’’53’’’), writes a letter which is recorded with a medium long shot and from a high ankle. This first impression gives the feeling of being part of his life, as ‘we’ stand beside him. The letter starts with common words of introduction, which indicates that the upcoming narrator needs to be him. After he has addressed the families of the victims of 9/11 (NY) he presents himself as being a Chilean living in London, and starts the overall topic with the words: “We perhaps have something in common” (1’01’’26’’’). A hard cut changes the scene to unknown black and white footage of running people. This shot as well gives the viewer a feeling of being part, as a hand-held camera is used. Pablo continues talking and hereby indicates the pictures as his memories. This is being proven with his words: “Your loved ones were murdered, as mine were” (1’01’’35’’’).
After this introduction of both topic and protagonist, Ken Loach continues his film with a Mid-Shot of a woman who throws an election card into a ballot box. While Pablo continues telling his story, a cheering crowd can be heard in the background. This emphasises the ‘reality’ of the event and starts a section of the film, that can be described as Pablo’s “beautiful dream” (1’02’’01’’’). We can see, supported by melancholic music, the winner of the mentioned election – Salvador Allende, as unconcealed later. A couple of short shots from a crowd (hand-held camera) are being shown to underline the joy of victory. Additionally, a singer starts to sing a song about the election, who later turns out to be Pablo (cf. 1’02’’38’’’). As the narrator sets in again, he describes a dream of a free and joyful country, underlined by happy music: “There was milk and education for the children” (1’02’’55’’’). He continues that it was “our country” (1’03’’11’’’) which not just indicates Pablo’s political attitudes, but emotionally allays the spectator into story told.
Part 3 starts with a quote of the former US-state minister Henry Kissinger, who talks about the burden of communism. This functions as first step of violence (cf. 1’03’’46’’’). Kissinger is shown in a mid-shot, laughing. These upcoming problems end part 3 and introduce #4, in which the first brawl will take place.
Starting part 4, a shot back to Pablo is being presented, in which he continues writing and thinking that “[…] our pain […] was legalized” (1’04’’10’’’). As we merge into this section of upcoming political rumour, Pablo accuses the USA to have played a direct role, to have organized the uprising, and to have set up the transport strike of Chilean workers (cf. 1’04’’11’’’-27’’’). This scene, which is an emotionally charged mid-shot, is supported by sirens in the background and incensed people. It is interrupted by a silent and very calm mid-shot of Pablo again, sitting in his flat and writing the letter, which can be described as shot-reverse-shot with Pablo and his memories ‘communicating’ (cf. 1’04’’37’’’-47’’’). Summarizing, this section describes a change from Pablo’s dream to the problems caused by Americans, who want to get rid of the President elect. The section is closed by Pablo talking about Dollars that “supported neo-fascist groups that brought violence to the streets” (1’05’’8’’’).
 According to Petra Stykow: 163
 For further reading cf. Graeme Turner: British cultural studies
 For further reading cf. Metz 71
 For further reading cf. Rick Altman: Film/ Genre or Jacques Derrida: The Law of Genre
 For further reading cf. Monaco Chapter 3
 Bernard F. Dick: Anatomy of Film 2010
 For further reading cf. Hill 199-200
 For further reading cf. Phillips 162-169.
 For further reading cf. Monaco Chapter 2 (Technology: Image and Sound)
 The sections (or parts) discussed in this chapter are just established for this paper. They are not existent in the film and should just be used for a better discussion structure