Thursday, August 13, 2009

Sweded: the Premier Postmodern Art Form

The feature film Be Kind Rewind written and directed by Michael Gondry stars Jack Black and Mos Def. The premise of this lower budget film is manifold as the main characters accidentally erase all of the rental VHS movies and reenact some of America’s most loved classic movies to still have a product to offer. This dark comdey has social commentary and oodles of intertexuality. Jack Black, who was also in the 2005 remake of King Kong, sweded the monkey movie in Be Kind Rewind, a remake of a remake (Trivia). Now you should be asking yourself what is sweding? Besides becoming a new verb, to swede a film is to redo pivotal and/or memorable moments from a movie, usually a blockbuster, using primitive filming techniques and few characters. The provided YouTube clip gives an excellent overview of the process, which is a simple yet stirring moment where the actors recreate the hit Ghostbusters (Be Kind). Just as Lyotard said, “I have decided to use the word postmodern to describe that condition... it designates the state of our culture following the transformations which... have altered the game rules for science, literature, and the arts.” (355).

What advantages are there to sweding a film? By taking memorable cliff hangers and other trailer-like clips in isolation society is able to remember our theatrical history, and feel like we are all part of one big inside joke. Deeper implications may be that by revisiting cinema history and exposing special effects we are exposing the plasticity of the movie industry. The main notion of Be Kind Rewind is that by making films with their friends the characters participate in ownership and get to display their own creativity and talent for making films that make other millions of dollars. Research on YouTube will show a community of swede followers who now do similar feats. The subsequent sweded Jurassic Park is a wonderful adaptation by moderately common people using the idea proposed by this film. There are rules to sweding, such as no computers, these special effects rely on old techniques and exaggerate their deficiencies. I came across a 300 remake where comments lambasted the makers for using a green screen in the reproduction, entirely missing the point one user said. This is perhaps a commentary on whether or not you are seeing a cardboard dinosaur or an elaborate CG T-Rex, the fact remains that it is never real. Just as Jean Baudrillard describes Disneyland as, “(an imaginary effect concealing that reality no more exists outside than inside the bounds of the artificial perimeter)” (370). There are hundreds of thousands of dollars spent on these films hoping to make more than they spent is in service of an illusory art that tricks the mind.

The film ends with lawyers coming to the video store and seizing all of the sweded movies for copyright infringement. This is more commentary on an industry that seeks revenue for every idea and thought inspired by its licensed creation. Hopefully these new sweders will have less trouble with the authorities and more creative license of their own.

To hear Michael Gondry talk about sweding check out

Works Cited

Baudrillard, Jean. “Simulacra and Simulations.” Literary Theory: An Anthology Second Edition. Ed. Julie Rivkin and Michael Ryan. Malden: Blackwell, 2004. 364-77.

“Be Kind Rewind- Ghostbusters”

"Sweded- Jurassic Park"

Lyotard, Jean-Francois. “The Postmodern Condition.” Literary Theory: An Anthology Second Edition. Ed. Julie Rivkin and Michael Ryan. Malden: Blackwell, 2004.355-64.

Trivia for Be Kind Rewind.

No comments:

Post a Comment