April 27, 2014 at 12:49 pm #403Jo-Ann WongParticipant
Out of all the movies our class has watched this semester, Seven Psychopaths is my favorite. I love how Martin McDonagh creates a script balancing violence with comedy while also making fun of itself and the concept of movie-making.
To make a film of this nature work, McDonagh juxtaposes extreme violence with calming images to create a sense of ridiculousness. For instance, Zachariah is the psychopath who carries the bunny around with him. When he tells Marty and Billy his story, we are given grotesque images of sawing limbs, burning bodies, and shooting people in the head. After he finishes his story though, the scene reverts back to reality and the camera angles down a bit to show the ears of the bunny. In the story itself, Zachariah talks about how he and his girlfriend murdered the Zodiac killer by stabbing his hands into the table and lighting him on fire. The funny aspect of it, however, is that while the Zodiac killer is burning alive, there is a picture of Ghandi in the background and Italian opera playing. In both scenes, the audience witnesses graphic violence, but is then greeted by images of peace and kindness. This continuous use of violent images followed by pleasant ones creates a juxtaposition, which causes confusion. This leads many times to laughter at the utter absurdity of the scenes.
Some scenes switch the order, where we are presented with funny scenes and then violence. For instance, the opening scene frames two assassins arguing over ridiculously funny topics while talking in a serious manner. Taken out of the context of killing people, similar to Quentin Tarintino’s opening scene for Reservoir Dogs (who I am guessing is an influence on McDonagh), we are given an image of these men as regular, but slightly idiotic, people. While arguing over eyeballs and communists, we see the Jack of Diamonds killer stroll up to them from behind and shoot both in the head. This violence, however, garners laughter due to the absurdity of two professional assassins unable to detect someone walking behind them.
To me, Marty is a representation of McDonagh himself with Hans being McDonagh’s consciousness, especially when the movie starts focusing on the script-writing process. For instance, when Hans reads Marty’s script, he indicts him for the lack of women as they are one-dimensional characters who are either killed when introduced or will get killed. Hans tells Marty these portrayals of women are not real. What is ironic is that this complaint can be labeled to the whole movie. For instance, two women who are present in the “reality” portions of the movie are Kaya and Angela. Angela is killed by Billy in the first scene she is in while Kaya, though not killed, disappears after a few scenes and only shows up again to get brutally shot in Billy’s version of Marty’s script. Meanwhile, the prostitute in Marty’s version of the screenplay is only in her underwear and talks in a stupid manner. However, Hans’ version includes her being in a conservative, red dress, having a college degree, and is the voice of another monk. Thus, sexuality can be expressed without being sexualized. As a result, Hans’ version indicates how movies of this violent nature, instead of resorting to the sexualized woman, can work with the woman being an important part of the story. Instead of resulting in the carnage Marty predicts for this psychopath’s story, Hans’ story becomes powerful as he states these scenes are a dream sequence of the first monk to light himself on fire in protest while the prostitute watches. Thus, by breaking Hollywood conventions concerning women, Han’s script becomes meaningful instead of a typical blockbuster, like Billy’s and Marty’s version of the script.
Besides critiquing the use of female characters, McDonagh also makes fun of Hollywood conventions found in Marty and Billy’s version of the script. For instance, Billy is insistent on a big shoot-out at the end of the movie. However, fiction does not always translate to reality when we see Charlie, with no gun or back-up, meets Billy to retrieve Bonny. Billy gets mad when he realizes Charlie does not follow the Hollywood clichés of unnecessary gunfights to further the story. By creating this scenario, McDonagh highlights the stupidity of certain conventions of the genre, which use violence for shock value and plot instead of focusing on common sense, while also showing people that they cannot take movies for reality.
Lastly, McDonagh also critiques the derogatory use of language in violent movies. For instance, Billy uses variations of the word “faggot” and “cunt” in the movie. However, with Hans as Marty’s, or McDonagh’s, consciousness, Hans derides this type of language when, at the end of his version of the screenplay, he says “I don’t think they like being called fags.” Thus, McDonagh is able to use this type of language while also exposing how unnecessary it is in the context of violent films.
By doing this, McDonagh critiques his own past work as well as genres which employ excessive violence to further their plots. It also shows McDonagh has a great sense of humor to be able to self-deprecate his own work. What becomes interesting, however, is whether the movie the audience watches, up to the part when we see Marty finish typing the last words, is Marty’s finished movie or Marty’s “reality” when he observed these events. If the former, we are still given a biased version of the events and an ending that Billy wanted, but maybe did not happen as Marty did not witness what happened in the final shoot-out. Thus, critiquing the art of writing itself, the movie ends with the question of how much of a story is based on the author’s own reality versus how much of it is based on his own desires.
Seven PSychopaths. Dir. Martin McDonagh. Sam Rockwell. Christopher Walken. Colin Farrell. 2012. DVD. Momentum Pictures, 2013.April 27, 2014 at 4:55 pm #404Hannah GlaserParticipant
Martin McDonagh’s Seven Psychopaths is definitely not my favorite genre of film; however, from a critical standpoint, there are several redeeming strengths in the movie, including some visually exciting effects, interesting self-referencing by the director, and a generous dose of ironic comedy.
The most compelling element of the movie is definitely the “movie within a movie” device. Because many events from the movie take place in the character’s imaginations and in Marty’s writing, it is often impossible to know what is real. After the entirety of the movie, which included sequences from Billy’s Hans’ and other character’s imaginations, we exit the action of the plot with a scene of Marty working at his typewriter, which begs the question, was the whole movie, including the imaginary sequences, Marty’s film? In the end, we might conclude that the line between reality and story is meant to be indiscernible, much as the writer’s mind does not discriminate between the two, whatever is shown or is thought is real, in its own way. This lack of devisor between reality and imagination is actually convenient rather than problematic for McDonagh, because it allows him to include all the outrageous stunts and improbabilities he wants, without much objection from his audience.
I was originally tempted to criticizing this movie for “making fun of itself” which many people find appealing, but which I think detracts from the film’s integrity. However, after thinking about it more carefully, I don’t think Seven Psychopaths ever really makes fun of itself, but of Hollywood, and movie stereotypes in general. By overtly contradicting film clichés, the movie generates a more intelligent brand of humor, and draws attention to stereotypes, such as the flat, voiceless female character, that need to change. Thankfully, the one paradigm McDonagh does observe is “you can’t kill the family pet.”
One of my favorite things about this movie is some of the great visual work that went into it. The opening scene is very carefully constructed so that the men’s discussion of eyeball stabbing is perfectly paired with a lovely slow-panning landscape shot. The irony here creates a source of humor in an otherwise tedious and gruesome discussion. Then, when psychopath 1 approaches, she is wearing a red mask, which paired with the complementary green background ensures that the audience will be in on the joke when she shoots the two assassins. The next thing I really appreciated was the use of the reflections in the Quaker legend sequence. The Quaker’s reflection is captured crystal clear in the metal blade of a knife, then again in the mirror in his victim’s bedroom, and several other times in windows. This striking visual effect is a continuation of McDonagh’s interest in reality and illusion, because we are tricked several times into thinking we are viewing the Quaker directly, and then after the camera zooms out we see it is only a reflection.
Amidst the unrestrained, remorseless violence endured during the film, I was very grateful for the more interesting gifts from McDonagh, of irony, visual effects, and most excitingly, the many ambiguous layers of imagination within imagination.April 29, 2014 at 10:03 am #410Megan MeadowsParticipant
I agree Jo-Ann, I really enjoyed this movie. While I enjoyed all of the characters as well as the parallel between the funny and serious, I needed to watch the movie again for plot reasons. It reminded me of a less intricate version of Inception in which many things are going on and every time I watch it I learn more. When I rewatched the movie this weekend, I gained a lot of clarity. I recommend that students in our class do so because of how it made me look at the film. Even though I knew the ending, the revelation that Billy is the jack of diamonds killer, I enjoyed it just as much as the first time.
While I thought the film was great, I’m not sure if I believe that Marty is a true hero. He does change from beginning to end, which is displayed by his answering of the phone call from Zachariah, although his decisions made me question his nobility. For example, most likely the ‘right’ thing to do, was to take care of Charlie when he was shot, but is that what a hero would do? Since both Charlie and Billy are awful people, how does one choose what is the right thing to do? I think the problem I am having is differentiating between Marty and the dangerous and hurtful people he is surrounded with.
With the comparison I just made, Marty does seem to bet he best person, the most heroic, in the movie. He is surrounded by insane murderers and therefore looks even better than he should. But examining his qualities, he never really does much wrong, just the best decision out of many bad decisions.
Sorry if this post is confusing, I am trying to work through my own confusion with the hopes that someone else in the class may feel the same way.
I guess I’m concluding that he is a hero because of the horrible situations he is put in where he still tries to make good choices, although perhaps if not in these scenarios he would just be an average guy.
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