|Abstract (english)|| |
The main goal of this doctoral thesis is to thematize the structure, significance, and position of the political thriller in contemporary American cinema. The political thriller as a filmological subcategory within the superior genre concept, thriller, is characterized by a pronounced representation of political ideology, iconography, and narrative, closely related to the determinants of the real, so-called “off-screen” world, and allegorizes them. The result of this process is a depiction of the off-screen political reality in the film’s diegetic space, where it serves as an interpretation of the off-screen coordinates in the on-screen area. Focusing on the 21st century, this doctoral thesis deals with political thrillers in the age of contemporary American cinema, which, for the purposes of film analysis, is understood as the period from September 11th, 2001, and the terrorist attacks in the northeastern United States, until 2020, the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic. The hypothesis of this thesis is that in contemporary American cinema there has been a double film depiction of the archetype of the “enemy,” which is simultaneously understood as an “external” and “internal” enemy, and that alongside the Nazi, during World War II, Soviet, during the Cold War, or Middle Eastern enemy, during the 1980s and 1990s, the motive of the US executive power and US security-intelligence agencies has also been included among the film antagonists. Although such depictions were also present in political thrillers created during the 20th century, due to changes in the geopolitical structure, the rise of the “digital age,” the spread of globalization, and the War on Terror, such an understanding of the motives of “America’s enemies” became even more important. Paranoia and pessimism, atmospheres immanent to the political thriller, are generated by the inability to trust the US government and the antagonism that is created between the possible scope of action of an individual facing a powerful political apparatus. Furthermore, the notion of American exceptionalism about how an individual can tackle such threats is just as immanent to these films, albeit in a somewhat more pessimistic form than it was during most of the 20th century, which is, again, conditioned by globalization and the change of geopolitical coordinates. At the beginning of the doctoral thesis, introductory remarks are given and an analytical-research framework is set for the further writing of the thesis. Briefly outlining the connection between the spheres of American high politics and film production between Washington, D.C., and Hollywood during the presidential terms of Donald Trump, Barack Obama, and George W. Bush, the introductory remarks serve to explain the continuation of the research procedure, as well as state the goals, hypotheses, and outlines of the analytical work ahead. Thus, the introductory remarks contain the layout of the chapters of the doctoral thesis and set out the fundamental issues they address. The introductory remarks are followed by a methodological chapter, in which the typological, semantic, syntactic, motivic, and thematic determinants of the American political film and political thriller are stipulated. The purpose of this second chapter is not exclusively related to the political thriller, yet it focuses on the development of the political film in American cinema, which is inevitable for the determinants of the political thriller as well. The main purpose of this chapter is to determine what the political film really is, i.e., whether it is an independent film genre or possibly another film category. Also, by answering this question, the additional goal is to determine how the political thriller can be understood as a subgenre of the thriller, as well as what its main motivic and thematic determinants are. By using the examples of numerous films from American cinema, from the beginning of the 20th century up until the first two decades of the 21st century, this chapter seeks to present how the semantic and syntactic determinants of politically connoted films affect their position within the typological categorization of the political film, determine what their main ideological and iconographical determinants are, and into which main motivic-thematic complexes the political thriller, as a subordinate to the thriller film genre, can be assigned. Although this chapter may as well be considered an introduction to the further analytical and research work, it is still crucial for the methodological reasoning and laying the foundations for subsequent chapters. In addition to dealing with purely filmological and methodological procedures, it briefly discusses the American political thriller as a sociocultural phenomenon, which will be an additional basis for the thematic, filmological, and political interpretations of the political thriller in the following chapters. The third research unit of this doctoral thesis focuses on the development of the political film, in general, and the political thriller, in particular, in American cinema during the 20th century. Relying on the outcomes presented during the first two introductory parts of this doctoral thesis, the third chapter applies them to analytical research, which seeks to present both the political and filmological background of the political thriller subgenre in American cinema over the past century. Presenting the socio-political and historical context of the Cold War, the background without which the American political thriller cannot be interpreted, the third research unit cites the filmic predecessors of the film that is considered the first real political thriller in American cinema, which is The Manchurian Candidate (1962) by John Frankenheimer. Its motivic-thematic predecessors are the films My Son, John (1952) by Leo McCarey, Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956) by Don Siegel, as well as North by Northwest (1959) by Alfred Hitchcock. The three films mentioned are important because of the motivic and thematic complexes of the nuclear family (My Son, John), possession by “outside” forces (Invasion of the Body Snatchers), as well as the ambiguity of identities (North by Northwest), the three decisive units which Frankenheimer’s film consists of. Also, before the analytical work, the historical facts and astonishing coincidences that Frankenheimer’s film has with events in the off-screen world, especially with the assassination of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy a year after its release, are specified. After the analytical part, the significance of this film, i.e., the first true political thriller in American cinema, is emphasized, during the further part of the 20th century. Immediately after Frankenheimer’s film, which has left a mark on American cinema during the mid-20th century, three political thrillers are analyzed, which, due to the period they were produced in, as well as the motivic-thematic complexes shown in them, represent a transitional phase between the beginnings of the political thriller in the 20th century and its further development during the 21st century. These three political thrillers are The Parallax View (1974) by Alan J. Pakula, Three Days of the Condor (1975) by Sydney Pollack, and Arlington Road (1999) by Mark Pellington. These films introduce the motivic-thematic complexes of corporate influence, media power, and the work of security-intelligence agencies into the filmological discourse, three motivic-thematic complexes that are decisive for the interpretation of the political thriller in contemporary American cinema. In this section, other films are mentioned as well, which are not explicitly analyzed using the methodology presented in the second chapter of the doctoral thesis, but which are also indicative of the perception of the political thriller, both in general terms, as well as in the context of contemporary American cinema, and one of the most emblematic among them is the political thriller All the President’s Men (1976) by Alan J. Pakula. Rounding off the political, cultural, and filmological sphere of the 20th century in the third analytical-research unit of this doctoral thesis, in which political films, in general, and political thrillers, in particular, were produced, the fourth research unit of this doctoral thesis focuses on the American political film as a reflection of events at the beginning of the 21st century. As the “absolute event,” according to the French philosopher Jean Baudrillard, this certainly includes the terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001 and the political and social, but also the filmological consequences they had. This primarily implies the ideological, iconographic, and narrative determinants of the American political film at the dawn of the 21st century, among which one of the most significant is the change in the film narrative about the “external” enemy, which shifted from the Eastern Bloc to the Middle East, even as early as at the end of the 20th century, but which was further strengthened by the events of September 11th. In addition to this far-reaching fact, the proclamation of the War on Terror introduced the notion of “terrorism” as a true, present, and all-encompassing threat to the American political discourse, but also to the sphere of social life, after those events. Relying on the methodological approach presented in the second, as well as the analytical outcomes of the third part of this doctoral thesis, the fourth part ends with a thematization of the events of September 11th and their filmological, but also socio-political repercussions. In the fifth, analytical-comparative part of this doctoral thesis, everything presented during the first four parts is sublimated in the interpretation of ten political thrillers of contemporary American cinema, which were produced in the period from 2004 to 2019. These ten films are divided into a total of five motivic-thematic complexes, each of which forms a separate subchapter, and each of them analyzes two political thrillers that are indicative of the motivic-thematic complex in question. Thus, in the first, “Corporations and Politics,” the films The Manchurian Candidate (2004) by Jonathan Demme, the remake of Frankenheimer’s already mentioned film, and Syriana (2005) by Stephen Gaghan, are analyzed. These two films deal with the intertwining of the spheres of high politics and the corporate influence that corporations have. This first motivic-thematic complex is followed by the second, “Media and Politics,” which analyzes political thrillers State of Play (2009) by Kevin Macdonald and The Ides of March (2011) by George Clooney. At the center of these two films is a combination of media and political action, within which there are often no clear boundaries and which greatly influence each other. The core of the third motivic-thematic complex is “Intelligence Agencies and Politics,” and the films Fair Game (2010) by Doug Liman and Zero Dark Thirty (2012) by Kathryn Bigelow, are analyzed. In these films, the security-intelligence sphere is simultaneously criticized and praised, reflecting the dichotomy of opinions on the operation of such institutions in the “off-screen” world. The fourth motivic-thematic complex, “War and Politics,” represents an analysis of the films Green Zone (2010) by Paul Greengrass and Lone Survivor (2013) by Peter Berg, which are set in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan during the 21st century, and which expose the lies about the beginning of these wars on the one hand, as well as highlight the classic notion of American heroic war exploits, and thus exceptionalism, on the other. The fifth and last motivic-thematic complex in this chapter, “Whistleblowers and Politics,” incorporates the analysis of the political thrillers Snowden (2016) by Oliver Stone and The Report (2019) by Scott Z. Burns. At their center are two individuals whose actions have exposed the activities of security-intelligence agencies and thus led to a re-examination of the current status quo, even at the cost of negative consequences for the protagonists. The fifth analytical-research unit is followed by the sixth, i.e., the concluding reflections on all aspects presented during the previous five units of this doctoral thesis. The intrinsic pessimistic atmosphere in political thrillers in contemporary American cinema is largely characterized by the fact that, in addition to the terrorist threat of an “external” enemy, motives of an “internal” enemy often appear, referring to executive structures and institutions they manage. In doing so, the goals, hypotheses, and questions presented in the first research unit are repeated and the answers to them are provided, thus re-emphasizing the original scientific contribution he represents in the fields of filmology, political science, and American Studies.