PHAA – Examples Of ‘Gothic’

Though many people at my university may argue to the contrary, the fact of the matter is that I am very passionate about alternative culture. The presentation due for this part of 360MC will call upon sources of inspiration for my idea, and why I think my idea will work in the media markets of today. Yet, you need not look far to find examples of popular ‘Gothic’ themes in mainstream culture today.

Film Style

The master of the ‘gothic’ is no doubt Tim Burton – he has crafted so many strange, dark and twisted narratives that have become cult classics that he has a definitive reputation. His films are usually based around the central character being different from others (take any of his films – The Nightmare Before Christmas, where Jack Skellington doesn’t want to be in Halloweentown any more; or Edward Scissorhands, where the main character is part machine). There is a similar theme in my own film, although it is much more subtle.

Dark humour is also a common theme of his movies, and notably Beetlejuice managed to create a unique blend of slapstick comedy whilst still delivering genuine scares (something also demonstrated in Wes Craven’s film Scream). I am avoiding slapstick comedy in my FMP as it’s expensive, and if it isn’t done correctly (and I’m no comedian!) the resulting film can look awkwardly unfunny and cheesy.

Here is my personal favourite film of Tim Burton’s – Johnny Depp’s protagonist is a city man in a rural town trying to solve a murder mystery involving witches and ghosts. Coincidentally, it uses a forest to create the feeling of isolation!

Costumes and Props

The only notable costume and prop design is going to come from Amy Carter’s fallen angel – she needs wings, a dark dress, various other gothic garments depending on what suits her figure (to be decided at a later date, but Blue Banana stores stock plenty of gear for affordable prices). I have investigated a couple of other alternative fashion companies, such as Gore-Couture; however they seem a little out of my price range budgeting (for the full dress costume, I am really looking at an approximation of the £200 mark). I am aware that there is a theatre department in Ellen Terry which may be able to help me with Amy Carter’s costume, but until the role has been cast and I know sizes, getting this sorted at this stage will be very difficult.

Emilie Autumn (above) and a dress from her clothing line (below). Emilie Autumn is a strange character, but you wont have to travel far into alternative culture before you run into her one way or another. Her expensive overseas productions are impractical for my film, but certainly give me an idea of what I’m looking for.

In terms of props, there are also very little. This could be an issue, as props can make conversations more interesting (allowing Amy Carter to magic cigarettes and smoke them is one idea I toy with a lot nowadays). The most important prop is the white feather found at the end – it needs to be white (and I mean seriously clean). This prop cannot be easily mistaken as belonging to a bird, otherwise the audience will leave the film feeling totally confused! Contact lenses on the angel’s eyes is another thing I need to discuss with the senior members of the production crew once they are involved.

Music Style

In terms of my own musical influences, there have been many (including aforementioned Emilie Autumn). For this film, however, I was originally going with a more mysterious and mellow sound, which I think would still work for the opening part of the film. Music for the flashbacks can be louder, faster and quirkier, though these will be only for the flashbacks, and drifting music in and out of a conversation will be odd unless the characters break the film up using props, exaggerated movements or otherwise. I was most concerned about the ending, but I rather feel that after the events of the film, a gothic soundtrack at the end would detract, so something more acoustic and ‘indie’ would work best for the happy ending (namely, all gothic elements from the film – including the bleak grading – have all disappeared. This idea works in a way that gothic is unusual and interesting, but not desirable in the wider / longer scheme of things)

Nightwish are my favourite band in this genre of music, and the song below is a good example of how music can be mixed up and messed up to create that totally ‘barmy’ sound style (particular 4:00 to 5:30!)

There are several local artists in Coventry that – provided they are willing – can allow me to use their music at the end. Kristy Gallacher is one such artist I’ve considered approaching – she has a beautiful acoustic sound that is almost perfect in terms of what I am after at the end of this film. In terms of the other gothic soundscapes, I have contacted a university student in music design who will help me with this endeavor. If there are any problems, there are gothic soundscapes available on sites such as freeplaymusic.com (which I can get permission to use), but again it would be better to showcase other people’s talents in my film, as every time it enters a festival or at the degree show, it will not just be my own work that will be on display.

Gothic In The Media Industry

I directly referenced Tim Burton above, and although he’s been making films for over twenty five years, his films are still met with critical acclaim. Charlie And The Chocolate Factory met with mixed reviews, as did Alice In Wonderland, yet they still grossed highly as the box office. Burton’s previous works have gained cult status, though I do turn towards his two Batman films with regards my next point.

Gothic has always been about the darker side of human nature (in a comedic fashion or otherwise). It has always been an answer for those who feel like don’t fit in with society, to join the alternative society with a different ‘mainstream’ – different clothes to wear, different music to listen to, different films to watch at the cinema etc. Yet, I find it funny how the media industry seems to favour the darker versions of events nowadays. Take Batman as a franchise – always a dark gloomy film, yet surely it cannot be argued that Heath Ledger’s ‘Joker’ in The Dark Knight was a lot more (pardon the accidental joke) serious than Jack Nicholson’s portrayal was. A more interesting one is the the Coen Brother’s ‘re-imagining’ of True Grit – largely the same film as the original, and yet completely different (seriously, you need to see both to believe how much they are different and the same, at the same time!) Internet sensation The Nostalgia Critic compared the old and new version of both Batman and True Grit, in which he shows how intelligent a movie buff he really is!

But even without remakes, one can look at Black Swan, one of the highest grossing films of last year, and notice how the twisted gothic undertones helped to forward the narrative of a woman who starts out as insipid before turning into the monster she becomes in the end. The visual style was met with critical acclaim.

BBC’s own re-telling of Great Expectations last Christmas had a dainty Miss Havisham on all the pre-release marketing – one of the most iconic gothic figures of all time, arguably! Ghost Rider 2 is also coming out soon at cinemas – a superhero franchise that is perhaps aimed at alternative culture more than Batman is!

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