Neighbours


"Neighbours" was one of McLaren’s most well know pieces and after some controversy went on to win an Academy Award. & nbsp;Through McLaren's affiliation with UNESCO he was able to travel to both China and India. In 1952 he was in China creating videos on health and sanitation for illiterate citizens. While there his village was taken over by communi st forces as a result of the conflict with Korea. This life-altering event was the inspiration for "Neighbours." The film was produced during the intense Cold War and was a protest to the Korean Conflict.

His experience of the Spanish Civil war and now Korea was the basis for his belief that war was not the answer. ;This film is well known for its technical use of pixelation, which is when a moving object is, filmed a few frames at a time. Pixelation gives the film a unnatural look or "frantic" like movement. But ultimately the film was a dedic ation to the innocent women and children that lose their lives in war. The film depicts men becoming so enraged that they brutally murder one another’s wives and children. That scene was so controversial that both the US and Europe r efused to show the film with that scene included. McLaren refused to change his film but ultimately he was persuaded to create an edited version that then went on to win the Academy Award.

Film Analysis:

The most dramatic point of the film is when the men kill their wives and children. Not knowing McLaren's inspir ation for this scene would make a viewer uneasy. He presents the whole film in a somewhat comedic way so when this serious part comes, the audience does not know how to react. Some may want to gasp while others may still be laughing at the absurdity of the situation. I think that it exemplifies McLaren's point about war. People buy into the idea that it will be okay, that the war will solve the problem at hand but that is until things spiral out of control. Out of control meaning that many are being harmed or affected by the war. Women and children could be considered "sacred," in that they are always the first ones out of a dangerous situation. However, war does not afford anyone this luxury.

McLaren integrates war throughout the entire film with small hints. In the first minute you see the men with tw o newspapers; one reading, "War is certain if no peace" while the other says "Peace is certain if no war." I felt that McLaren was trying to make the viewer aware of all the contradictions that war presents. For instance, countries g o to war to save another country but end up destroying another in the process.

The next hint of war comes over the flower. Here the men begin to put up fences and draw boundary lines. & nbsp;Both see the flower as their own and do not even think to share. This felt like McLaren's way of showing the viewer how distorted peoples definitions of property can be. The flower is ultimately no ones except Mother Nature.&nb sp; Once the men start fighting they even destroy the flower itself, without even realizing it. Again, I see another parallel to war; bombs, guns, tanks all of are used to destroy not only people but land. We destroy the land as if we own it, which again like the flower does not technically belong to us.

As the fight escalates we begin to see close ups of the men's faces. First we see them with minor makeup and th en by the end of the sequence, they look like savages depicted in popular Hollywood movies. I saw the makeup as a way of transition. Each new layer of makeup represented a new level of anger to me. This anger leads to the critical scene in which the men kill the women with children. The first time watching it I could not believe what I was seeing, I started to laugh. But the more times I watched the film and the more I learned of McLaren's inspiration the more pain I felt over this scene. To think that these men or soldiers could be so violent as to kill innocent victims it made me upset. This has happened every time a war occurs. Whether it was World War 1 or 2 or Vie tnam or the Gulf War whatever it may be, it is not fair to treat people with such a lack of respect. That is what I think that McLaren was trying to convey. How disgusting is it that we can do this to one another and still sleep at n ight? That is what McLaren's experience was and I think that is one of the main reasons he created this film.

From a technical standpoint this film was also at the forefront of filmmaking. The use of pixelation was just o ne of the many things that McLaren incorporated. You can hear the artificial sounds he was experimenting with as well as see the emphasis of movement. To follow another characteristic of McLaren, he used strong colors and humor to co nvey his serious message. This film even though it carries a heavy message also allows the viewer to just have fun while watching it

--Rene Cartagena, 2003

Norman McLaren