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Todd Solondz's Beautiful, Dark, Twisted Fantasy

by Michelle Robinson

This student project studies the various stages of dark fantasies in director Todd Solondz's films, including Welcome to the Dollhouse, Happiness, and "Fiction" and "Non-Fiction" in Storytelling. These stages will include the pre-fantasy, the pure fantasy, and the post-fantasy reflection. Additional commentaries will be provided by students in the course “The Film Director as Public Intellectual” at UNC Chapel Hill (Spring 2014)

External Analysis

by fletcher cox

This clip from Storytelling reveals sequential phases of dark fantasy. After a sultry night that included a crude sexual encounter with her college English teacher, Vi writes a story on the piece and shares it in class. She is emotionally distraught during her reading of the final parts of the story, from her point of view she feels victimized and raped, her classmates however beg to differ. Each member of the classroom has harsh critiques of her story, calling it “racist,” “perverted,” and “misogynistic.” The entire class participates in breaking down her fantasy from an outsider’s perspective. The final student to criticize Vi’s writing breaks down Vi’s actions from the prior night with startling accuracy. In terms of pre fantasy, the student calls Vi out for her apparent fetish for black male sexual potency, for the “cool” aspect of “notching” such an exotic sexual encounter. The actual moment of fantasy exceeded Vi’s preconception of “Mandingo cliché” and upon realizing the brutality of her encounter; she immediately regrets the decisions that led her to commit such acts. Still, at the same time, Vi goes along with her teacher’s commands, which hints at her actual dark fantasy of being subject to the potent black male’s sexual prowess. Still, in that moment she feels remorseful not only for cheating on her boyfriend, but also for succumbing to her inner desires. In order to compensate for her sinful acts, she victimizes herself in her own mind, putting the blame on her teacher rather than her own voluntary actions. Her teacher additionally calls Vi out on her actions, calling her story “callow” and “coy.” He then describes the post dark fantasy stage of reflection, which includes total separation from the fantasy and a return to normality, reflected by her immediate return to her boyfriend’s side after the incident occurred. Through analysis of the classroom setting, we can see the breakdown of Vi’s dark fantasy.

How Camera Movements dramatize this intense scene

by Connolly Walker

In the final scene of the “Fiction” section of Todd Solodnz’s film, Storytelling, we see how the director uses specific camera movements to help dramatize the intensity in the classroom. Solondz opens the scene with a medium close-up shot of Professor Scott, who happens to be the subject of Vi’s creative piece. Opening the scene with Professor Scott is fitting because Vi is exposing Scott’s rough rape fantasies which she personally experienced. Solondz then moves the camera from Scott and slowly pans the students who each look shocked and horrified as Vi continues reading. Solondz then ends the camera pan on Vi as she finishes the story. It is interesting that Solondz stopped on Vi at this moment because we get to see Vi as damaged as a result of her student-teacher sex fantasy. Even the dialogue confirms this transformation when Vi says, “She had entered college with hope, with dignity, but she would graduate as a whore.” Solondz then begins a montage sequence of camera movements as students share their feelings on Vi’s creative story. At times, there are rather harsh camera movements which mirrors the harsh comments and feedback many students have in response to Vi’s story. Also, when Catherine begins to give her commentary, Solondz often cuts back to Vi. This camera movement is appropriate because Catherine is exposing Vi’s fantasy of being with the professor. Catherine says, “Jane pretends to be horrified by the sexuality that she in fact fetishizes.” As Catherine continues her commentary, Solondz focuses back on Vi when Catherine calls her a “spoiled suburdan white girl with a rainbow complex.” Solondz then cuts to Professor Scott who continues to argue that the story was an expression of Jane’s fantasy. What is so interesting is that at this moment Professor Scott is continuing to express his fantasy that Vi would actually want more. The scene ends just as the scene began with a focus on Professor Scott, which suggests his control over Vi and the classroom.

Fantasy Exposed

In this scene from director Todd Solondz's Storytelling ("Fiction"), Jane presents her night with her professor to her creative writing class. Her classmates provide overwhelmingly negative feedback on her writing and marginalize her pain.

from Storytelling (2001)
Creator: Todd Solondz
Distributor: Fine Line Features
Posted by Michelle Robinson