Ever since starting my academic career into the arts, I have been (rather stubbornly) set in my ways with the idea that the best art is purely original, and that pure originality can be achieved if you’re talented enough. You may look back at one of my first-ever blog posts, my ‘Cabinet Of Curiosities’, where I state that one of the reasons I went to university to make films in the first place is because of the inundation of remakes and covers in the cinemas and multiplexes nowadays.
However, over the last year I have been introduced to this idea that nothing is original anymore, and that everything we create – no matter how unique we think it is – is purely a re-interpretation or remixing of something that has gone before. The notion is that ‘everything is a remix’. An online documentary project explored this idea (and probably coined the term), stating that remixing first started out around the times of Led Zeppelin. The first episode can be found here.
The series examined how remixing everything from music to games to movies gradually evolved over the later years of the 20th century, and how it has come to define the media production of today. Below is an example of a video on Vimeo, explaining the works of one of the most well-known ‘remixers’ in cinema – Quentin Tarantino. He always takes inspiration from previous works, and isn’t afraid to show it. It can make for amusing viewing for those with the cinematic knowledge to understand where his visual styles have been borrowed from:
Although a separate post will explore this later, there are also the memes of today that have started to take over the internet, and find their way into university and workplace social networks, and even advertising (despite most memes starting out as simple film stills or short videos!) Having recently bought Mass Effect 3, I was soon drawn in to the vast controversy of the way this gaming trilogy had officially ended (don’t trilogies always end controversially?).
Below is an example of memes as remixes – Downfall is a 2004 film from Germany charting Hitler’s last days in Berlin – coincidentally controversial in Germany for portraying the dictator as a human being rather than a monster. One of the classic scenes from the film is the moment when Hitler realises his troops can no longer defend his home country or the capital from the enemy, and that the Western troops are closing in from France, along with the Eastern front closing in from Russia. He realises his dream of dominating (/‘uniting’) the world are over, and breaks into rage in his underground bunker meeting room. Over the years though (with this being a subtitled film for anyone who doesn’t speak German), this scene has become an online meme, with the meaning and context behind it changing from Hitler reacting to film reviews, people in the room breaking wind, or – in this instance – finding out about the end of a video game trilogy!
The Original Scene – A powerful scene depicting the emotion of Hitler as he realises he has lost World War Two, and will be remembered as a tyrant of history forever more.
The Remixed Scene – One of many meme remixes. In this case, a powerful scene depicting the emotion of Hitler as he realises that the much-hyped multiple-choice ending of the Mass Effect trilogy has been condensed into only three different endings with relatively similar outcomes. This is by far my favourite rendition of the ‘Downfall’ meme – if you haven’t played the game, I’ll just say that this video is pretty much spot-on and sums up exactly how I felt at the end! (You gotta laugh!)
So put simply – everything could well be a remix, and my own work should be no exception to the rule. Despite this FMP being the one chance to show that true originality can indeed be done, I decided to view my own film from an analytic perspective of cinematography. If I knew of any inspirations that had affected the way my artefact had been constructed, I would place them all in a video. I had the movie-going knowledge to conduct this analysis… and the results were astounding.
Not only could I quote at least several shots from other films, but the amount of influence video games had had on my film also surprised me quite a lot. Not only had cinematography been influenced by previous works, but the script had been as well! I was amazed just where these influences had come from – some from games as far back as the nineties, and some from television adverts for theme park rides! It was interesting once I’d thought about it just who or what I should be thankful to for the inspirations for this piece (and I’m sure I’ve only named a few in the video below!)
The chase was designed to replicate The Matrix, although that scene has now been cut. The ‘twisting tree’ shot was influenced by an advert for the Hex ride at Alton Towers, whilst some lines of dialogue were drawn from the replaying of video games countless times (probably until the game dialogue was etched into my subconscious!) But the important thing is that although I have borrowed these ideas from the past, I have made something new by bringing these old ideas together in a new way. From now on, my idea of ‘true originality’ will be more carefully used – I should be aware of how much work is mine, and how much belongs to previous works. I am pleased to say though, that despite my vast (and ever-increasing) knowledge of cinema I still believe this is the only narrative involving a sad student and a fallen angel and a white feather. Thank goodness for that!
Another Source Of Inspiration – This ‘weeping angel’ tombstone design was brought to my attention through the band Nightwish, after they used it on the front cover of their album ‘Once‘. It is just another example of how the image of a fallen angel hanging her head down can be interpreted.