Lieutenant Knight

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Lieutenant Knight

Artist statement:

This piece is about the segmentation of cinema that has occurred since the '70s through the realization by industry that in an era of television it no longer made sense to produce a single cinema for a single mass audience. In today's cinema, what we have is a multiplicity of niche markets. What this work purports to do is to juxtapose two of these genres in order to bring into relief the differences between them and the sorts of assumptions that are brought into play in engaging in each one of them.

On the one hand, we have American Beauty; the Academy Award winning Hollywood drama while on the other hand with have The Dark Knight; the superhero blockbuster action movie. The voiceover from American Beauty helps to reorganize the visuals from the Dark Knight so as to place the focus on the character of Lieutenant Gordon instead of on Batman. In my view, this emphasizes a central difference between these two types of films and that is the status of the individual versus the status of the diegetic world in which this individual is articulated.

In American Beauty, the main character of Lester is posited as a figure who becomes fed up with his middle class bourgeois lifestyle and decides to transgress against it. As such, the focus of the movie is on his individual becoming while the rest of the world doesn't matter except inasmuch as it exists as an obstacle that he must deal with. The establishment, however, is never seen as able to change, only he can change by deciding to find satisfaction in the nooks and crevices of the system through getting a low paying job and buying drugs and all these activities are enabled by his ability to blackmail his boss in the unrealistic scene in the office. American Beauty thus seems to serve the role as a safe way to transgress against your life. The audience vicariously lives through Lester and is thus able to vent frustration and return to work the next day. Furthermore, all his transgressions are self-centered and do not allow for systemic change. The world as it exists is a given and only he can change himself. The point of this analysis is to say that American Beauty is driven by the character's psychologies within it and their interior explorations while the world is simply accepted.

In constrast, The Dark Knight exists in a world that is in flux and dangerous, the vigilante Batman is necessary to fight against lunatics like the Joker who do not even have a rational basis for their criminal activity. Though there are some relationship dynamics between Bruce Wayne, Rachel, and Harvey they are treated very superficially. As such, the situation is one where the external world is always hanging on by a thin thread with characters reacting to it who do not change. The entire movie is thus driven by exterior action, the activities of Batman, Harvey, and the Joker matter whereas who they are and what they experience psychologically is minor. This is all to say, then, that the structure of The Dark Knight is the reverse of that of American Beauty. The characters are posited as static entities within a somewhat fungible world though the nature of this fungibility is never fundamental. That is, the world exists as either being or not being. The question is that of the world as it is now or anarchy. As such, the villians are shown as those who want to destroy the world or lead it into disorder while the heroes are those who want to preserve the status quo and fight for "justice."

The juxtaposition in Lieutenant Knight then is meant to posit Lieutenant Gordon in The Dark Knight as if he were Lester Burnham from American Beauty inside of the diegetic space of The Dark Knight in order to focus the privileging that occurs in each of these movies. In American Beauty, the world is mundane, banal, and changeable. As such, Gordon is associated with this attitude inside of the dynamic and changing world of The Dark Knight creating this sensation that his life as his primary concern is strange in the face of such a world with vigilantes like Batman.

The repetition of the image of Harvey burning in a loop is meant to confront the viewer with what would otherwise would be a throwaway informational shot in order to show how much such shots have become normalized to the viewer. The style of movies and cutting today floods our senses and minds so that time is not left in order to contemplate. This is an attempt to remedy that.

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