This movie is a reshoot of another piece I did in the past called “Fetiche” (Herrmann 2010), which was part of a workshop I took during the summer of 2010. Paul Cotter, the instructor of the workshop, gave us a series of restrictive rules to follow: 1) Shoot in an elevator; 2) 2-minute-film in one single shot, no cuts; 3) Avoid dialogues; 4) Do everything – preproduction, production and post-production – in two days. Considering the constraints, I thought it would be interesting to have a man tied up in an elevator, only wearing underwear. Other people would come in, including the camera, which was a POV shot, and would be embarrassed by the situation. The man in underwear tried to make conversation, but people just ignored him. I was really happy with the idea, but because of the constraints, I was not happy with the overall technical result, which made me want to reshoot the film.

When I first conceived the piece, I just thought about something that would be quick witted and humorous, but for the reshoot, I decided to use the piece to play with Hollywood’s famous convention: objectifying women. According to Laura Mulvey in her most famous essay “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema” (Mulvey 2009), the medium is capable of satisfying the visual wish for pleasure through objectification of the people on the screen. Freud “associated scopophilia with taking other people as objects, subjecting them to a controlling and curious gaze” (Mulvey, 24). Section III (Woman as Image, Man as Bearer of the Look) – parts A and B  – of Mulvey’s essay best represent my movie “The Gaze”, but I twisted the concept which the author calls traditional of Hollywood classic cinema. “In their traditional exhibitionist role women are simultaneously looked at and displayed, with their appearance coded for strong visual and erotic impact so that they can be said to connote to-be-looked-at-ness” (Mulvey, 27). In “The Gaze”, I put the man in display, and the women in the movie along with the cameras (the video camera shooting the film and both photographic cameras) erotically looking at him. The male figure in my movie cannot escape the gaze, therefore, having to accept the “burden of sexual objectification” (Mulvey, 28), and there shouldn’t be any doubt of what he is doing in the elevator, as he has kinky handcuffs as proof of a fetishist act. He is no longer in control of the film fantasy, but the red-haired woman is.

This concept of the gaze is not new in my body of work. My photographic series “The Break Up” already dealt with this idea when I cut the man out of the photograph and left his silhouette. As the man in “The Gaze”, the men portrayed in the Break Up Series cannot avoid being in sight, in both cases, I confined the man in a way that they have no choice but to accept they are being looked at. What most inspired me to the role of the man in “The Gaze” can be defined by the following sentence:

“men act and women appear. Men look at women. Women watch themselves being looked at. This determines not only most relations between men and women but also the relation of women to themselves. The surveyor of woman in herself is male: the surveyed female. Thus she turns herself into an object – and most particularly an object of vision: a sight”. (Berger 1972)

I do not allow the man to act, by handcuffing him to the elevator, he is only allowed to appear. This time, he has to bear the burden to be looked at, but he does not do so quietly, which differentiates him from a woman’s traditional role in movies: women tend to accept their whole as a sight, while the man was put forcefully in that position by the red-haired woman.

The red-haired woman is a key character in my movie. She is not red-haired by accident, I chose an actress that could represent, in my opinion, one of the most objectified and highly sexualized female characters in Classic Hollywood: Rita Hayworth in “Gilda”. But this time, she is the one in control, she is the one observing and realizing her sexual fantasies. She uses her camera to disembody the man, taking shots of his body, fetishizing each part, making the man into an object.

It is important to emphasize that Laura Mulvey calls for a revolutionary cinema that would break with the classic Hollywood aesthetic and relieve women from their role as object. This is not what I am doing in “The Gaze”. I decided to use a humorous story to invert what traditionally Hollywood does, and that can be specially seen in the end, when I reveal that the man in the elevator is wearing funny boxers, and not completely naked. I intentionally left an open end: it’s not possible to know if the red-haired woman put him there because of fetish or maybe vengeance, the only thing we know is that she was having fun.

Works Cited

Berger, John. Ways of Seeing. London: Penguin, 1972.

Cotter, Paul. Paul Cotter’s Portfolio. 2010. http://paulcotter.net/ (accessed 12 12, 2010).

Mulvey, Laura. Visual and Other Pleasures. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009.

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