Worlds Viewed: Spring Breakers


One of my long-standing dreams is to teach a class on cinema and the concept of world. It’s a topic that runs through the writings of numerous film theorists. (Possible readings would include Stanley Cavell, André Bazin, Annette Michelson, V. F. Perkins, Parker Tyler, Daniel Yacavone, and Jennifer Barker.) It is also, frankly, one that I have found to be somewhat ill-expressed in most film theory, which is why I would split the course readings between film theorists and figures in phenomenology. (Possibilities here include Heidegger, Arendt, Merleau-Ponty, Aaron Gurwitch, Iris Marion Young, Hubert Dreyfus, and Maxine Sheets-Johnstone.)

The screenings for this course would all center around characters encountering a new world. I don’t mean this in a fantasy sense. There would be no stepping through wardrobes into uncharted realms, here. Instead, I mean encountering a new configuration of possibilities: adjusting to a new social role, learning new skills, abiding by new constraints, adopting new goals … or, in the worst case, failing to, and losing the meaning of one’s life as a result. Screenings would potentially include Woman in the Dunes (Teshigahara Hiroshi, 1964), Jeder für sich und Gott gegen alle (Werner Herzog, 1974), Perfumed Nightmare (Kidlat Tahimik, 1977), My Brother’s Wedding (Charles Burnett, 1983), Beau travail (Claire Denis, 1999), Une prophète (Jaques Audiard, 2009), How to Train Your Dragon (Dean DeBlois and Chris Sanders, 2010), and Snowpiercer (Bong Joon-ho, 2013).

And, as the title of this post implies, Spring Breakers (Harmony Korine, 2012). Since its theatrical debut four years ago, Spring Breakers has been a favorite in University of Chicago Intro to Film courses, particularly as a way of illustrating nontraditional editing techniques. I’ve never taught it in that context, but I have been itching to include it in a class, as it remains one of my favorite films of the past decade. Below the jump, you’ll find a long-overdue appreciation of it.

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