For the past couple of months, I have been hard at work at a new “Let’s Study,” the most ambitious so far. It’s for Half-Life 2, and I foresee it being spread over seven parts. Part One: Linearity is now posted.
There’s a lot of material in this particular Let’s Study adapted from the first chapter of my dissertation, as well as material I developed when teaching the Half-Life franchise in class (including this lesson from my “Comparative Media Poetics” course). My first “Let’s Study” was just a playthrough with some commentary and a bit of b-roll; for this particular series I’m really leaning in to the video essay format more, trying to create shareable versions of what are basically class lectures, or conference presentations. This particular series is still geared very much toward a general audience, but I’m using it as prep for potential future adaptations of dissertation material into video essay format for submission to a genuine peer-reviewed academic video essay journal.
As usual, the script is below the fold. Part two coming soon!
The Red and the White, a Soviet film released in 1967, depicts the confusion and brutality of the Russian Civil War. At the time of film’s release, war movies, due to their intense popularity, had formed a clearly defined set of tropes and tactics. Director Miklos Jancso could have easily followed these rules to construct a traditional war narrative. Instead, Jancso rejects nearly all the typical elements of a war film. This results in a kind of hybrid film that defies categorization. It is hard to pinpoint exactly which genre The Red and the White belongs in. Can viewers consider a film without a traditional narrative, a drama? Does a piece without archetypal characters count as a fiction film at all? The Red and the White utilizes many techniques that unnerve the viewer in its deviation from the classic war-genre film. These techniques serve to create a depiction of war that falls somewhere between fiction and nonfiction, blurring the lines between art and historical depiction.
The classic film, Pork Chop Hill, exemplifies the traditional Hollywood war drama at its zenith. The Red and the White and Pork Chop Hill, released in 1959, come from different countries, but similar historical contexts. Audiences were used to seeing certain types of film. Pork Chop Hill, with its sweeping music and opening credits, throws the audience into the world of Hollywood cinema. The opening sequence prominently features its star, Gregory Peck. The director, Lewis Milestone, leaves no room for confusion: this is a war movie. As a result, the audience goes into the first scene with a plethora of ideas and expectations for the film that Milestone gladly meets.