Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Reaction to 6.28 Afternoon Lecture / Film

While I appreciate the intent to tell the "True Story of the Roman Arena," this documentary leaves me disgruntled. I do not fault the use of storytelling elements like analogy, symbolism, and effects, but I do find this film, made by the BBC, disingenuous.

The use of music to heighten a mood or enhance the narrative is critiqued both in ancient Roman arena combat as well as more modern Spanish bullfighting. An astute audience would note the use of low strings and other musical ploys during scenes of gore and violence during the film as the same use of music to supplement visual narrative. Am I supposed to feel horrified and unsettled watching specific scenes of "The True Story of the Roman Arena?" It would seem so... Perhaps in telling the true story of the past the motivation of modern animal rights supporters is an evident, and ultimately undermining force.

If the creators of this documentary feel at liberty to employ the same techniques that they question, at least they could employ the same kind of truth they hope to expose. The truth about bullfighting is that while the art and spectacle of violence are paramount to the experience, the slaughtered animal is slaughtered to be eaten. In fact scenes of the butchering of the bulls into cuts of beef appear during the course of the film, without any explanation that those same bulls were killed in front of an audience hours earlier. It is currently law in Spain to make sure the animal is dead and butchered efficiently (as in, within a certain amount of time). It is certainly a departure from the types of massacres of animals in ancient Rome. I see the parallels of public violence, but I do not get to learn about what happens afterward. But wait, the documentary does tell us about how efficiently the masses of animals (and humans) are carted away from the scene, and it does try to parallel with the loading of the dead bull using draft horses. Why stop the narrative there?

I would close by saying that while I appreciate the use of modern analogues to tell a story of history, I wonder if my classmates were at least confused by the use of these parallels and maybe even opinionated enough to write something about it. Any ideas on the boxing? Thanks, and good evening,


1 comment:

Jim Tantillo said...

I agree with you that some of the BBC stuff is a little over the top, plus the video is starting to show a little age (twenty years old?). But I think as a basic introduction to the gladiatorial fights, it does a decent job. Plus I think there are more than just parallels between bullfights and the animal contests in the arena--there's a pretty direct line from ancient ritual sacrifice (including the Roman games) up to the modern bullfight. But your points are well taken about some of the more disingenuous (manipulative?) techniques employed by the documentary's creators.