Revisionist Spectacle? Theatrical Remediation in Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s Birdman and Quentin Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight
This article argues that the remediation of theatrical elements in film, i.e. the ample employment of non-systemic signs through the cinematic filter, facilitates a critical engagement with the medial properties of film. While theatrical production has expanded into the realm of film in recent years through mediatization and live broadcasting, a similar, yet inverse, development can be observed in film: Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) (2014) and Quentin Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight (2015) are just two out of many examples showing cinema’s tendency of emulating live performance. The films’ illusions of liveness cannot be upheld, however, and are broken by the employment of cinematic signs. As such, theatrical films foreground their constructedness and negotiate the impossibility of recreating liveness on screen; they draw attention to their status as spectacles and in a society increasingly dependent on mediatization within a capitalist context. Taking into account the semiosis of theater and film, respectively, the article thus establishes that semiotic transitions, as described above, manifest themselves in genre transgressions: In ways reminiscent of Brechtian theater, The Hateful Eight and Birdman forge critical awareness towards their screened representations; theatricality, therefore, accentuates the perceived naturalization of generic conventions in film (in this case a western and an action/superhero film), and marks them as constructs precisely because the use of theatrical elements does not play into audience’s expectations. By extension, the article analyzes the political dimension of these films and asks whether spectacles, famously theorized by Guy Debord as inherently tautological and uncritical products of mediatized mass cultures, are able to comment on the system they emerge from and whether they can effectively revision the conventions of generic film.
Keywords: theater, film, theatricality, spectacle, remediation, alienation effect, genre, semiotics
How to Cite:
Zitzelsberger, F. & Beyvers, S. E., (2018) “Revisionist Spectacle? Theatrical Remediation in Alejandro G. Iñárritu's Birdman and Quentin Tarantino's The Hateful Eight”, Iowa Journal of Cultural Studies 18(1), 3-21. doi: https://doi.org/10.17077/2168-569X.1482
Rights: Copyright © 2018 Sarah E. Beyvers and Florian Zitzelsberger