Modernist narration in easy rider

 

 

You do you own thing in your own time. You should be proud. ” A similar occurrence materializes again later when he observes the ‘city kids’ planting seeds. Moreover, at the beginning when they prepare to set off on their journey, Wyatt throws his watch to the ground. This symbolises their rejection of time constraints, enhancing the theme of freedom. Coupled with the freedom of the open road, the rock soundtrack also facilitates in depicting the theme of liberty. Roger McGuinn’s Ballad of Easy Rider tells of a man who yearned to be free like the rivers that flow through America’s natural landscape.

The song begins shortly after Wyatt and Billy die. When the words “All I wanted was to be free and that’s the way it turned out to be” are heard, Hopper is implying that death is the only freedom in America’s corrupt society. Another movie that expresses themes of freedom is A Bout de Souffle (Breathless) (Jean-Luc Godard, FR, 1960) – a film that epitomizes modernist narration. Despite killing a police officer, Michel ceases to get arrested throughout the entire film, elucidating his personal freedom. Whilst Breathless illustrates the theme positively, Easy Rider takes a negative perspective.

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Hopper’s prevailing message is that the notion of freedom is an illusion in the conformist and corrupt America. Easy Rider is littered with societal messages and themes throughout its duration. Getting its messages across to the audience is a major trait of modernist films. Consequently, many art films reiterate similar connotations, amplifying the significance. Easy Rider does this with its messages revolving around the shortcomings of US society. The characters’ dialogue is the central tool in exposing these themes. In George’s ‘alien speech’, he describes how the Venutians’ civilization is more highly evolved as it is based on equality.

He declares that if they reveal themselves to human society it would cause “a tremendous shock to our antiquated systems”. This signifies America’s conservative ideals and fear of equality. This is fortified during the films fourth campfire scene when George’s prophetic words to Billy also underscore society’s fears: “… don’t ever tell anybody that they’re not free ’cause then they’re gonna get real busy killin’ and maimin’ to prove to you that they are. Oh yeah, they’re gonna talk to you and talk to you and talk to you about individual freedom, but they see a free individual, it’s gonna scare ’em.

” A short while later on the same night, the rednecks that had tormented and insulted them earlier return and set on the three with baseball bats, killing George. Initially, Wyatt and Billy began their journey in search of the American dream. The film continually mocks this traditional, patriotic US principle. Firstly, Wyatt and Billy acquired their funding by selling drugs (questioning USA’s ‘Get Rich Quick’ fantasy) and secondly, their travels uncover the severe intolerance that exists in USA. The illusion of the American dream conceals the copious amount of corruption that is present in the United States.

This theme is developed by the movies tagline: ‘A man went searching for America and couldn’t find it anywhere’. Whilst at their destination of New Orleans, the characters experience an LSD trip in a cemetery – a place of institutionalised death. This is where their search for freedom and the American dream has taken them, stressing that in America both these ideals are dead. For the most part, Easy Rider serves to celebrate the beauty of the scenic American countryside, but following George’s death and the LSD experience, more industrialised areas become prominent.

In the final campfire scene, Wyatt exclaims “We blew it”. By this he not only means his and Billy’s unsuccessful endeavours for freedom, but also America’s failed society. With his ‘Captain America’ nickname and the numerous stars and stripes motifs linked with him, it is evident that Wyatt is the personification of America’s lost soul. He has witnessed both the bigoted attitude of society and the visual, industrial change in the landscape – corruption that has prompted him to articulate USA’s collapse.

Finally, the messages in Easy Rider are not unlike themes present in many other art films. La Haine (Hate) (Mathieu Kassovitz, FR, 1995) for example, exhibits anti-institutional themes within its negative portrayal of the police. In addition, films like My Own Private Idaho (Gus Van Sant, US, 1991) also mock corrupted American values. However My Own Private Idaho concentrates more on the family values side of the American dream. After studying several aspects of the film, I consider Easy Rider to demonstrate many examples of modernist narration.

By comparing it to films that are typically art cinema, I discovered that Hopper’s movie conveys modernist qualities such as an open-ending and non-linearity. Also, through analysing its textual links to the French New Wave, I unearthed more art cinema attributes. For example, Easy Rider chronically disobeys Hollywood conventions by using typically non-mainstream characters and alternative editing techniques. Additionally the themes and messages depicted in the film are similar to those expressed in other art films. The anti-establishment tone of La Haine assists in exemplifying this.

Finally, whilst Easy Rider is not predominantly seen as a member of art cinema, it definitely possesses many imperative elements of modernist narration.

Word count – 2405 Bibliography Film Art: An Introduction, Bordwell, D, and Thompson, K, McGraw-Hill (2000) Film Criticism – ‘The Art Cinema as a mode of Film Practice’ by Bordwell, D, (1979) The Oxford History of World Cinema – ‘Art Cinema’ by Nowell-Smith, G, Ed. by Nowell-Smith, G, Oxford University Press (1996) The End: Narration and Closure in the Cinema, Neupert, R, Wayne State UP (1995)www. imdb. com www. filmsite. org Filmography 81/2 (Federico Fellini, IT/UK/FR, 1963)

Jules et Jim (Frani?? ois Truffaut, FR, 1962) A Bout de Souffle (Jean-Luc Godard, FR, 1960) La Haine (Mathieu Kassovitz, FR, 1995) Blowup (Michelangelo Antonioni, UK, 1966) My Own Private Idaho (Gus Van Sant, US, 1991) Easy Rider (Dennis Hopper, US, 1969) Performance (Donald Cammell and Nicolas Fellini’s Roma (Federico Fellini, IT/FR, 1972) Roeg, UK, 1970) Irreversible (Gaspar Noi?? , FR, 2002) Todo sobre mi Madre (Pedro Almodi?? var, SP/FR.

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