Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The limits of the spectacle

Anthony Lane, in his June 25, 2007 review of “A Mighty Heart,” writes “Only once does Mariane [Pearl] crack. Informed of her husband’s death and of its savage circumstances, she goes to her room, crouches over, and keens.” This is a significant misreading of that moment in the film. In fact, Angelina Jolie’s Mariane screams over her husband’s death before she learns the specifics of his execution. Afterward, when Mariane is told about the video of the beheading, she simply insists that she never wants to see it. This sequencing is key to the film, which, in its own vexed way, critiques spectacular uses of violence in a global-technological age: the fact that killings, missile strikes, and torture can be recorded and screened does not make their realities any easier to navigate. The paradox emerges at the point where we are supposed to feel, through Jolie’s cinematic performance of Mariane, that the felt consequences of violence are always beyond the limits of the spectacle.