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Monday, 19 November 2012

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mxyzptlk

Could you argue that Syrio is also demonstrating how to kill with dignity, and that's a lesson Arya still has yet to learn? Dying with dignity is a theme that pervades both the series and the novels, but it seems that its mirror twin, killing with dignity, is just as important -- think back to Ned's decapitation of Will. (Arguably, though, it doesn't get people very far.)

What you've noted here is almost like mickey-mousing, but with the action keyed to the composition of the shot structure rather than the music. It's kind of similar to the pool hall fight in Mean Streets, sans Mr. Postman playing on a medieval jukebox. (I guess that'd be Mr. Ravenman.)

One of the interesting choices made in this scene is to not show Syrio getting killed. This chapter in the novel is of course from Arya's perspective, and she has no way of knowing what actually happens in the room after she runs away on Syrio's command (What do we say to the god of death? Not today.) We know Syrio is a Braavosi, and that's where the Faceless Ones like Jaqen H'ghar come from. Those guys don't die so easily, and even though Syrio hasn't yet re-emerged, I've kind of held out hope he could, maybe with a new face. The way this scene was edited leaves that door open as well.

Just so.

Question: When I was working on my PhD, I couldn't find any studies done on the effects of careful editing such as what you get into on the audience's experience of a film/show/scene. I'm guessing that'd be a cross between reader response criticism and a psychology experiment, where you'd have to have test audiences view different scenes -- some carefully crafted like this, and maybe an action scene from, I dunno, Merlin or something -- and then identify why one scene is more memorable or has more impact than the other. I know that seems completely subjective, but it seems that much of the most iconic and lasting cinematic moments are the ones that are carefully crafted, play with and against convention, and don't just rehash standard Hollywood Style moves. Such careful shot construction must have some effect on the audience's experience of a film beyond just being pretty or interesting, whether the audience recognizes it or not -- it must play on the subconscious viewing experience like careful structure and word choice does in good literature. I understand that those audience effects are already assumed, which is one of the reasons good directors keep stretching the form, but I have yet to see a clinical study showing how form actually plays a concrete role in audience response.

One example for this kind of thing could be Kubrick's establishing shots in Dr. Strangelove. There are three settings, the bomber, the bunker, and the base. Whenever the film cuts to one or the other settings, the establishing shot has something bisecting the horizontal of the screen and something bisecting the vertical: With the plane it's the wings and the tail; in the bunker, it's the seam between the politicians at the table and the big map with a continent providing the vertical bisect; with the base, it's an outside shot with the top of the base bisecting the horizontal and the flagpole bisecting the vertical.

Those horizontal and vertical lines make a cross marking the center of the screen, and that all leads up to the final iconic image of the film, the crosshairs of the bombsite. In effect, Kubrick has been subconsciously prepping the audience for that final scene by establishing a kind of crosshairs structure through the mise-en-scene in each establishing shot. I could be wrong, but it seems that has to play a role in how audiences experience the film, whether they recognize it or not.

I want to see that study, dammit. If not, I want to do it.

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