Skip to content. | Skip to navigation

Personal tools
Sections

Commentaries on this Media!

Mommy and Daddy Issues: Exploring Parental Roles within the Films of Solondz and Haynes

by Michelle Robinson

This student project will explore the treatment of parent-child relationships in the films Dottie gets Spanked and Dark Horse, directed by Todd Haynes and Todd Solondz, respectively. Both directors portray parents in rigid, traditional roles, where the father is the disciplinary figure and the mother coddles and nurtures. By examining these relationships we plan to enter a larger discourse on the appropriate role of parents. Additional commentaries will be provided by students in the course “The Film Director as Public Intellectual” at UNC Chapel Hill (Spring 2014).

Moving camera to highlight power dynamics

by Erin Schaberg

In this scene, Solondz uses camera movement to enhance the sense of authority displayed by the father. The scene opens with a hard-focus, medium-long shot of the mother watching television. Abe enters into the background of the shot and moves down the hallway to his room, when he is impeded by his father stepping in front of him. Solondz then cuts to an out-of-focus super close shot of the father, who quickly comes into focus. This focusing technique is used to emulate Abe’s perspective in the scene; at first, he tries to avoid eye contact (and thereby confrontation) with his father, but soon appears to decide that conflict is inescapable. Next, the camera cuts to super-close, soft-focus shot of Abe, who shifts his weight uncomfortably. As he does so, the camera pans slightly to track his movements, increasing the viewer’s awareness of Abe’s fidgeting. Solondz then cuts back to the super close-up shot of the father, who stands firmly, only moving his eyes to track Abe’s shifting. Solondz cuts back and forth between super close up shots of both father and son, as the two lock eyes for an uncomfortably long time. Eventually, the father releases Abe from his disapproving gaze and the camera cuts back to a long shot as Abe rushes down the hallway to his room. In this scene, Solondz uses the camera movement to emphasize the power dynamics between father and son. The stillness displayed by the father – and mirrored by the camera movement in shots featuring the father – show his strength and authority. By contrast, Abe’s shifting movements are tracked by a shifting camera, calling attention to the fact that he is squirming under his father’s gaze. The camera movement heightens the confrontation between father and son, and underscores the father’s role as the authoritative disciplinarian. Solondz seems to be critiquing the traditional role of a father in this scene, which is consistent with Solondz's typical examination of dysfunctional familial relationships.

Mommy and Daddy Issues: Exploring Parental Roles within the Films of Solondz and Haynes

by Michelle Robinson

This student project will explore the treatment of parent-child relationships in the films Dottie gets Spanked and Dark Horse, directed by Todd Haynes and Todd Solondz, respectively. Both directors portray parents in rigid, traditional roles, where the father is the disciplinary figure and the mother coddles and nurtures. By examining these relationships we plan to enter a larger discourse on the appropriate role of parents. Additional commentaries will be provided by students in the course “The Film Director as Public Intellectual” at UNC Chapel Hill (Spring 2014).

Portraying Disapproval

by Jasmine Martin

In this scene between Abe and Jackie, Solondz supports traditional parental roles by asserting Jackie’s dominance in the relationship. By having Jackie obstruct Abe’s path, Solondz highlights the tension between the two characters and personifies Jackie’s desire to reroute Abe’s life. Solondz begins by using a series of eyeline matches between them. By cutting back and forth, he shows the struggle to balance the family dynamic between the two adult males. As with most parents, Jackie wants to see his son flourish and adopt the traditional masculine role. However, he still has to deal with the fact he has a grown man-child living in his house and has failed to give Abe the characteristics that are assumed to grow out of father-son relationships. In the same scene, Phyllis sits feebly off to the side while Jackie stands in the way of Abe as he juvenilely tries to balance asserting his dominance and adopting his desired role as child. When Abe walks in the house, the mother begins to commence conversation. As soon as the Abe and Jackie meet, Abe takes a step back in order to balance himself. The father throughout the whole scene does not have to even open his mouth, but his stance on his son is understood. It is not until the father looks away, in an expression of disappointment and fatigue from the son’s arrested development that the two separate into different spaces of the frame. The close up on their faces and their head and body movements mimic, not only each other, but also a defense-offense lineup in an athletic game—interesting since the scene is between father and son and sports are a stereotype of father-son relationships. Similarly, the eye-line matches seem to create a mirroring effect that may hint at the traditional idea of a father being a son’s first example of what a man is. The sound also reflects the traditional paternal role. When the father returns to his seat, the male on the TV says “What the hell are you doing?”, and although the diagetic sound only partially relates to the scene, it reflects the action that has occurred; the father is taking an aggressive role in his relationship with his son—as if to say, “What the hell are you doing, Abe?” Although there is laughter that follows, the scene is embodied by the aggressive tone of the paternal figure in the show.

Dark Horse: Silent Confrontation.

After threatening to move out, Abe (Jordan Gelber) returns to his parents' houses, where he meets his father (Christopher Walken) in the hallway.

from Dark Horse (2011)
Creator: Todd Solondz
Distributor: Double Hope Films
Posted by Michelle Robinson
Keywords
Options