Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Steven Soderbergh's Schizopolis

Steven Soderbergh’s “Schizopolis is a movie structured rather outside the norm for most modern films. While the film can be broken down into three acts or segments, they are all different perspectives on the same story. The nature of this structure precludes a linear storyline and instead gives us different parts of the overarching plot of the film through the lenses of different characters. The first segment shows us the life of Fletcher Munson, who, already disconnected from his wife, accepts a promotion at work that leads to even more domestic problems and a furthers the distance between them. The second segment shows us, and apparently Fletcher, the life of his doppleganger, the man who is revealed to be having an affair with Fletcher’s wife , a dentist named Jeffery Korchek, but he too eventually leaves Mrs. Munson. Finally we are shown the entire sequence of events up to this point through the eyes of Mrs. Munson. Although there are some that argue that the structure of the film is simply weird for the sake of being weird and that the film lacks apparent meaning, (indeed there are several jokes in the film itself regarding this) the film and, by extension its strange structure deal with the theme of communication and interactions between people, and the consequences of being unable or unwilling to do so.

The first segment shows us perhaps what is the most iconic scene of the film in which, rather than speaking their actual dialogue Fletcher and his wife exchange lines like “Generic greeting!” and “Generic greeting returned.” In the third segment, all of the dialogue save Mrs. Munson’s is spoken in different languages, without subtitles which forces the viewer to either rely on their knowledge of earlier scenes or extrapolate the meaning from Mrs. Munson’s dialogue if they do not understand the languages being spoken. The structure of the film itself also serves to further this theme, jumping without indication from one segment to the next and often interspersing, within the segments themselves, other bits of plot, effectively creating a lack of communication between the viewer and the film that makes it difficult to follow where and when we are in the film, and which characters we are following. This idea is accompanied by a “Ten Commandments”esque introduction by Soderbergh that warns the viewer of the coming confusion, claiming that it is through no fault of their own and that the viewer they will have to watch the film again and again until the events are understood, again showing us an unrepentant lack of communication on the part of the filmmakers.

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