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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)

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)

Realizing the Fantasy

by Chas Egan

This scene focuses on the fantasies of both of Allen Mellencamp and Helen Jordan. Solondz uses a mixture of diegetic sounds, non-diegetic sounds, and extreme close ups to display how each character feels about realizing their fantasies. The establishing shot shows a book titled Pornographic Childhood written by Helen Jordan. This establishes the reason for Jordan’s frustrated inner monologue, which is her writer’s block. The non-diegetic monologue does not turn into diegetic sound until she releases a scream of frustration as she falls on the bed. I believe this transition of sound and the fact that the transition occurs on the bed represents Jordan’s fantasy of forced sexual engagement. The extreme close-ups are something that Todd Solondz frequently uses, and he uses it effectively here to display emotions of the two characters. When Mellencamp is on the phone originally with Jordan, the extreme close up allows the viewer to feel the intensity that his dark fantasy is causing in more than just his voice but also his angry and aggressive facial expressions. Cut to the close up of Helen Jordan and the viewer can see the lustful/surprised face that seems almost joyous that her fantasy can be achieved now. The expressions Solondz focuses on with his camera shots display Mellencamp living his fantasy through a telephone while it shows Helen Jordan building up to achieving her fantasy. One could argue that Mellencamp’s fantasy is to sleep with Helen Jordan, not to have phone sex with her, but the close-ups in the second half of the clip do not agree with that argument. When she returns his call, his surprise in his face is so large that he panics and hangs up the call. Judging by the look on his face, Mellencamp would rather hide behind his phone than have a physical relationship with this woman.

Allen and Helen realizing their fantasies

by Laurie Beth Harris

By showing Philip Seymour Hoffman’s character Allen in Happiness make obscene, threatening phone calls to his neighbor, Todd Solondz is strategically using the ways Allen’s dark fantasies manifest in his life to reveal the disturbing inner-workings of the character’s mind. On the surface to the people around Allen in the movie, he surely seems strange, but it’s not evident how dark and ingrained his fantasies are. Solondz clues the reader in on what’s going on inside Allen’s mind by showing these private moments where Allen lets his fantasy come out through obscene phone calls to his neighbor, Helen. This particular phone call takes place while Allen is at work, rather than in the privacy of his apartment, like previous ones in the movie. By setting this scene in the place where he works, Solondz is showing how Allen’s fantasy has made itself a part of his daily life. These phone calls acting on his fantasies are just as much a part of his routine as going to work every day. By placing this particular phone call at work, Solondz conveys how integral letting these fantasies out have become to Allen’s life, juxtaposing his dark internal fantasy with the reality of his life. However, this scene and the phone call isn’t just fantasy fulfillment for Allen. Right before this scene, Helen has been saying to herself that she’s sorry she wasn’t raped as a child because it would give her something to write about. Helen is looking for something traumatic to channel into her writing, and Allen’s disturbing phone calls provide an opportunity for that fantasy of her own to be fulfilled. When Helen dials *69 and calls Allen back after he hangs up she is showing that she’s actually okay with his phone calls because they play into her own personal fantasies of being a tortured artist.

Happiness: Obscene Phone Calls

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Allen verbally assaults another victim with an anonymous phone call, but, in doing so, inadvertently fulfills her fantasy.

from Happiness (1998)
Creator: Todd Solondz
Distributor: Good Machine
Posted by Michelle Robinson
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