Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Its all about the Subtext and Context

Media communicated multi-layers of different messages, values and meaning. They often are not noticeable to the viewer but are hidden in the subtext of the story. What is often not said is more important than what is actually being communicated. Subtext is one of the most effective ways filmmakers can communicate their point of view. Another reason subtext is used by a writer is to invoke strong emotional reactions from their audience. For example, a character does one thing but means something else. He takes his kid to the park to play and meets a potential girlfriend, who is in trouble with the law. The character says one thing but means something else. For instance, he says “I am going to get you out of this mess” rather than saying “I love you so much, I’m willing to risk my life to save you”. Character A does something nice for character B instead of saying how he feels about her..

It’s impossible to interpret content or subtext unless we understand the context in which it is presented. This requires a commonsense approach.  First, it is important to understand the relationship between the content and context. How is the content used in the storyline? Does it fit? Does it make sense within the context of how the story is being told? Does the content provide an ultimately redeeming social message? Do the characters change or grow because of the content? Is there redemption? Does truth ultimately prevail?

For example, the movie, Saving Private Ryan contains graphic images. The action is intense and personal. The film received an R rating based on the content of brutal, violent images. Is this content justified as it’s applied within the context of the film? Most would argue, yes, because if you are going to recreate the invasion of Normandy on D Day, it must be realistic. Survivors of the experience felt the filmmakers had told an accurate and realistic portrayal of the events of that day. Saving Private Ryan would not have worked unless it offered an honest and unflinching look at wartime violence. We now have a better understanding of what our veterans suffered through and the sacrifices they made on that fateful day. The content of this film proved that.

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