Sunday 7 March 2010

Reply to Bill re: Hurt Locker

I have not seen The Hurt Locker so my comments are more in reaction to others. My main question is in what way does a filmmaker have a responsibilty to do anything other than make a piece of art and tell a story the way that they want to? If you are arguing that because the filmmaker didn't do certain things with the story you did not find the film enjoyable, fine. But if not, I fail to see where such a responsibility eminates from.
The question of creative responsibility is a fair one. I would agree with you insofar as I think it wrong to apply individual 'blame' on two counts:

First, it overemphasises the importance of 'authorship.' While the director is clearly a key component in the production of a work such as this she is but one of an extremely large number of individuals who bring such a project to fruition. Not only must funding be won, producers hired and actors allowed creative control over their own characters, the ideas that are produced through such a creative process are heavily dependent upon existing ideational structures, be they cinematic conventions, racial stereotypes or, indeed, language itself. Even 'auteur-ship' is, then, not 'author-ship' because one can never take total creative control over one's own culturally constructed dispositions. Thus, critique is (or should be) nothing specifically personal - it is a political and a social act.

Second, as I mentioned below, the remarkable thing, for me at least, about this film is not so much the film itself but its (relatively un-)critical reception. To speak of the film in this context highlights its embeddedness in wider narratives than the film's own. It is precisely thinking about the film in this way that highlights its intrinisic political content because, whatever else happens, films will always be cultural spaces for the portrayal and construction of ideas about life and, in this case, war and racism. What, after all, is more remarkable: a film being made that operationalises questionable racial stereotypes or such a film being made and its being talked of as perhaps the finest made in an entire year? To validate this film is to validate what it can be seen to endorse, however implicitly. This is the crucial point.

Therefore, I don't think anyone here is accusing the filmmaker of 'racism' as such. What we are engaging in here (on a very small scale) is cultural criticism: the critical assessment of a prominent aspect of our cultural lives and its political connotations. I think this is extremely important but it is certainly not about placing 'blame' on any one individual. That said, the director does bear a significant degree of responsibility for what she has played such a large part in making. She is, then, responsible for her own role in her own life, just as well all are. She is no more exempt from politics for being an 'artist' than I am for being a librarian. Of course, she most likely has a different interpretation of her film; one that would not make her responsible for any kind of negativity - such is life. She is entitled to her opinion but it being her opinion doesn't make her exempt from responsibility for her creative actions.