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Analysis of Amores Perros

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,Compare and contrast the narrative structure of at least two of the films studied. Your answer should also evaluate the reasons why these structures were chosen.
Since the commercial success of Alejandro González Iñárritu’s Amores Perros in the year 2000, there has been an indubitable resurgence in the amount of interest in, and amount of films being produced within Mexico. This picture, as well as Y Tu Mamá También (2001) by Alfonso Cuarón both received worldwide acclaim and have set a high benchmark for the other Mexican releases since the millennium to live up to. This essay will explore the prominence of narrative structure in the aforementioned Amores Perros (2001), as well as Amat Escalante’s Los Bastardos (2008) and Guillermo Del Toro’s El Espinazo del Diablo (2001). The constituents of a film’s narrative structure come under two different entities: the content of the film’s story, and the way in which the story is presented to the spectator. Vis-à-vis the content of the films story, the essay will mention how, on a thematic level, these films each rely heavily on the use of violence to delineate its message and intentions. James Kendrick states that the use of violence in a film is employed as a structuring device and it is evident that each of these films uses violence for differing intentions, of which the essay will later make discernible. Subsequently, the essay will contrast the order in which the stories are presented to the viewer, chiefly, regarding how Amores Perros uses a non-linear structure while Los Bastardos and El Espinazo del Diablo use a linear structure. Finally, the ending of the films will be discussed. These films are all open ended and are open to interpretation from the spectator. Each offers the viewer a rather bleak outlook for the future of their respective characters but all are made in different ways, which the directors have used to stress the message and motifs of their films. Whilst analysing the films narrative structures, reference will be given to the technical aspects employed in the film which accentuate meaning and allow the directors to implement their own styles.
Firstly, the theme of violence is an inherent facet of each of these films. As already stated, violence plays a part in a film’s underlying structure and it plays an integral role in its ideological process. Amores Perros employs violence as a medium through which the story takes place to move forward. The viewer becomes habituated to the savagery of gang warfare and it is used as a tool to evoke a sense of excitement among the audience and is indicative of the socioeconomic climate in Mexico City. Dog violence is seldom seen within film and in Amores Perros, its presence contrasts with the violence between humans. Violence is not only a tool for adding excitement and pacing to a story, but also it was utilised as a conduit for Iñárritu to express his lugubrious vision of Mexico and to attract mass spectatorship. A pertinent example of the use of violence in Amores Perros is the scene in which Ramiro is kidnapped and badly beaten. A contemporary pop-song is playing over the scene and the beating is juxtaposed with a sex scene. Violence appears to be the status quo, used to contrast the different social-economic backgrounds that exist in Mexico City and to delineate the films pertinence to the action genre. Furthermore, Sánchez Prado (2006) writes, ‘all of the manifestations of violence in the film are direct consequences of moral actions and are never interpreted from a social point of view’. Violence becomes an inherent part of Mexico City and is portrayed as a ubiquitous presence. Interestingly, Iñárritu has publically stated his dislike for some aspects of Mexican art-house cinema. In an interview entitled ‘Pup Fiction’, he claimed that they do not allow the audience to connect emotionally with the film, while his aim with Amores Perros was to rattle and entertain the audience. It appears that his choice of an eclectic mix of contemporary pop and rap music, along with the fast paced violent side of the film are some of the principal reasons which attracted wider audiences to the film. Shaw writes, ‘this desire to please the audience has borne fruit in terms of profit, with three films including Amores Perros’ and it is evident that Amores Perros gives us an example of a film that has thrived thanks to its commercialistic roots.
On the other hand, In Los Bastardos, an art-house, avant-garde production, violence is employed with an inverse affect. Violence is employed as an implement to create pathos and disturb the viewer, rather than as a way of adding excitement to the story. The majority of the film’s plot points take place during the break-in. After the younger of the two Mexicans fatally shoots the American mother, the viewer is left in a state of shock and is left wondering and questioning Mexican-U.S. immigration issues. Amat Escalante does not glorify the use of violence, he uses it as a tool to show the precarious situation in which many immigrants find themselves when trying to make a living in the U.S. In an interview, Escalante stated that he wanted to show that immigrants do commit crimes but they are harassed and treated as sub-human and this leads to their movements towards earning money through illegitimate routes. One example would be during the park scene where Fausto and Jesus are accosted and abused in the park. This scene is a delineation of a widespread belief about the mistreatment of illegal immigrants in the U.S. It should be observed that contrary to Amores Perros, this film has next to no non-diegetic sound and there is little dialogue. Escalante provides one explanation for this, he stated that he prefers his stories to be visual productive, with little dialogue, as there is less chance of distorting the style of the film.
Although Del Toro’s El Espinazo del Diablo is not described as a drama, but a horror, its use of violence is contrastable with that of both Amores Perros and Los Bastardos. Peter Hutchings writes that within a horror film, ‘obviously one necessary element is that the monster has to be dangerous and that it does harm to the people it encounters’. However, in El Espinazo del Diablo, this is not applicable. The films ‘monster’ is the ghost of a recently deceased orphan, Santi. As the story unrolls, we discover that Santi is actually a rather melancholy and harmless character who does not seek to harm the protagonist of the film, Carlos. The majority of violence stems from Jacinto, the caretaker of the orphanage. Anne Hardcastle writes that ‘the consistent juxtaposition of the ghosts lack of menace with Jacinto’s repressed rage and cruelty suggest a much more potent source of danger than the tragic Santi ever does’. The most prevalent example of the violence employed by Jacinto happens during the scene in which he causes the orphanage to explode. One of the principal messages of the film and of Jacinto’s use of violence is to foreground the atrocities caused by fascism. Del Toro himself stated that he wanted to create within the orphanage a microcosm of the world happening outside due to the civil war. Obviously as a horror film, it relies on violence to instill fear and excitement among spectators and also the violence exemplifies the horrors that persisted during the Spanish Civil War.
Secondly, on a structural level, it is worth comparing the non-linear structure of Amores Perros with those of the two others films. Amores Perros uses three vignettes about the lives of three separable parties, Octavio and Susana, Daniel and Valeria, who are both couples, and El Chivu and Maru, who are father and daughter. Their stories are told separately but intertwine and are portrayed as collective entities which come together to form the narrative structure of the film. In order to comprehend the reasons for the choice of the non-linear structure, it is necessary to interpret where the key plot points in each story become intrinsically connected and how it affects the meaning of the narrative. The crash scene, which is repeated three times, becomes a locus where the most pivotal event within the film arises: the crash itself. Its repetition highlights its profound gravity towards the lives of each of the characters involved and is also used to set the rhythm and ambiance of the film. As seen in Memento (2002) and Tarantino’s epic Pulp Fiction (1994) this infrequent structure is a tool aimed to bring excitement to the story and, in the case of Amores Perros, signifies a sense of impending doom and as stated by Iñárritu, reinforces its parallelism to that of a tragedy. Moreover, the non-narrative structure brings a perspective scope to the picture. Hector Amaya states, ‘Amores Perros showcases a Mexico City full of violence, confusion and stratification’. The non-linear structure delineates this stratification. The repetitions of the car crash and the separate stories show that lives which normally appear disparate, are all unequivocally connected.
In contrast, Los Bastardos opts for the more traditional, linear type of structure where the plot takes place over a 24 hour period. Firstly, we see the two protagonists approaching the camera from a far-away position; they are walking across a dry river and only become clearly visible after about three minutes of footage. As they leave the camera’s view, the screen quickly cuts to lurid red screen where the title is displayed and a harsh violent strumming noise is produced. Already, there is a discernable difference between this film and its drama counterpart, Amores Perros. Its narrative differs due to its ways of production. In a recent interview, Escalante writes that he wanted to give the film a documentary feel. The lack of cuts in and between scenes, little camera movement and the lack of non-diegetic sound all contribute to this sentiment and is comparable to Amores Perros in that the spectator feels like a witness to the crime. Los Bastardos is less melodramatic than Amores Perros. The scarcity of dialogue and lack of camera involvement within the film tie strong elements of naturalism to the narrative structure. The scene in which we see Fausto and Jesus, along with a group of other Mexican immigrants, who are performing a day of manual labour for an American, nothing unexpected occurs. However, it is one of the most powerful scenes in the film. Like Del Toro stated about his intentions with El Espinazo del Diablo, this scene also creates a microcosm that illustrates the exploitation of Mexican workers across the U.S.
El Espinazo Del Diablo, like Los Bastardos has a linear structure and is arguably the most orthodoxly structured of these three films. El Espinazo Del Diablo does however contain flashbacks which are necessary so that the film can be understood by the viewer. Flashbacks are not used in Los Bastardos but are used in El Espinazo del Diablo in order to unravel the mystery sounding the recent death of Santi. The film starts at Carlos’s arrival at the orphanage. We understand that there is a connection between the war and the death of Santi due to the juxtaposition of the bomb being dropped, with Santi dying on the floor. According to Del Toro, the premise of the film was to create a ghost story where the war was in the background but eventually crept into the foreground. With the flashbacks, this notion is achieved. We comprehend that Jacinto is the villain and that Santi carries no threat towards the orphans and even warned them of the impending tragedy that would occur in the later stages of the film. As previously stated, after Jacinto is identified as the main threat, the allegorical references become clearer. According to Hardcastle, Carlos represents a young democratic Spain, as he and the other orphans work together in order to dispel Jacinto (Fascism) from their orphanage. The linear structure and flashbacks work to create an atmosphere of doubt, as the spectator tries to puzzle the connection between war and the death of Santi.
Finally, the essay will explore the use of the open endings involved in these films. The endings each leave the spectator wondering what will become of the characters and impose a feeling of melancholy upon them. Los Bastardos leaves no impression of anything positive. The final scene shows us Fausto working in a field without the presence of his deceased friend Jesus. He comes into close proximity of the camera. There is an emphasis on his despair and he appears to be trapped in his new life as a failed immigrant. He appears lost without his friend and this ending further accentuates the horrific situation in which thousands of Mexican immigrants find themselves in within the U.S. At first, In El Espinazo del Diablo, it appears that there is a fairly positive outlook provided to the spectator as they see Carlos, among other orphans surviving the orphanage. However as a viewer from the 21st century, we are aware that this young, democratic Spain will not be effectuated until 30 years after the end of General Franco’s rule over Spain and that the boys would probably die in the desert-like terrain. However, it could be assumed that their journey across the desert signifies that it would not be easy but that the dictatorship would eventually fall and that a democracy would finally be asserted in Spain. The outlook provided by the ending in Amores Perros is bleak and leaves the viewer with a gloomy vision of what life is like for the citizens of Mexico City. Valeria and Daniel’s relationship is ruined before it has even truly begun, as she is barely coping after the loss of her leg. Octavio loses his lover, dog and best friend due to his decision to involve himself in the underground world of dog-fighting. The only slightly positive aspect of the ending is the recreation and attempted redemption of the former Guerrilla, El Chivu. The ending shot is an image of him and his dog, standing facing a depressing Mexico City, which is reminiscent of a nuclear wasteland. Only this attempt of redemption leaves a sense of change and of progression, but overall the bloodshed inflicted by the violence of the dogfighting and the car crash subdue any happy ending. It is clear, therefore, that each of these films contrasts profoundly but all share some similar qualities. Violence is the most analogous theme across each of the films. The essay clarifies that, as a guise, violence appears in each to produce a drastic affect upon our emotions, yet, below the surface, also produces different responses and accumulates to form differing meanings. Apropos of the structural route which the film follows, the non-linear structure of Amores Perros is a demonstration of the stratification and interaction between classes within Mexico City, whereas, the linear structure of Los Bastardos signifies a day in the life of a Mexican immigrant. El Espinazo Del Diablo’s use of flashbacks and linear story create a sense of mystery and although not classified as a drama, unlike the other two films, is classified as a horror and has noticeable similarities not only on the thematic level of violence but also in that it contains an allegory about more widespread issues. For example, its motif is to delineate the problems associated with fascism as much as Escalante’s picture aims to highlights the issues involved with illegal immigration to the U.S. Overall, each of these films earned some acclaim and the comparison between Amores Perros and Los Bastardos highlights the components which help to attract appeal and spark interest in a widespread context. Thanks to the production values and each director’s unique styles, the films have been produced in different ways, which manifest the nuances and at times even disparity of each films separate motifs and technical aspects.
2633 Words

Bibliography
Amaya, H ‘Amores Perros and Racialised Masculinities in Contemporary Mexico’ New Cinemas: Journal of Contemporary Film, Vol.5, No.3, 2007, http://blackboard.le.ac.uk/bbcswebdav/pid-696660-dt-content-rid-1567110_5/library/eReserves/SP2035/SP2035%20-%20Doc%2022091.pdf
Chun, K ‘What is a ghost? An interview with Guillermo Del Toro', Cineaste, Vol.27, No.2, Spring 2002, http://www.jstor.org.ezproxy4.lib.le.ac.uk/stable/41690128
Hardcastle, A.E ‘Ghosts of the Past and Present: Hauntology and the Spanish Civil War in Guillermo Del Toro’s ‘The Devil’s Backbone’ Journal of the Fantastic in the Arts, Vol.15, No.2, Spring 2005, http://blackboard.le.ac.uk/bbcswebdav/pid-685834-dt-content-rid-991755_5/library/eReserves/SP2035/SP2035%20-%20Doc%2022093.pdf
Hutchings, P; The Horror Story, (Pearson Education Ltd: Essex, 2004)
Kendrick, J; Film Violence: History, Ideology, Genre (Wallflower Press: London, 2009)
Lawrenson, E. Pérez Soler, B ‘Pup Fiction: an Interview with Alejandro González Iñárritu’ , Sight and Sound,Vol.3,No.11,2001, http://web.ebscohost.com.ezproxy4.lib.le.ac.uk/ehost/detail?sid=764c12ee-4960-4aea-be92-005a084bb8ee%40sessionmgr114&vid=1&hid=103&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWhvc3QtbGl2ZQ%3d%3d#db=aft&AN=504938235
Monaco, J., How to Read a Film (fourth edition), (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009)
Pearsons. D ‘Mighty Movie Podcast: Amat Escalante on Los Bastardos’ (2009), http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dan-persons/mighty-movie-podcast-amat_b_225048.html
Sánchez Prado, I.M. ‘Amores Perros: Exotic Violence and Neoliberal Fear’ Journal of Latin American Cultural Studies, Vol.15, No.1,March,2006, http://www.tandfonline.com.ezproxy4.lib.le.ac.uk/doi/abs/10.1080/13569320600596991#.UtAh7Z5_tyM
Shaw, D; Contemporary Cinema of Latin America: 10 Key Films, (The Continuum International Publishing Group Ltd: New York,2003)

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[ 1 ]. J. Kendrick, Film Violence: History, Ideology, Genre (Wallflower Press: London, 2009), P.66.
[ 2 ]. I.M Sánchez Prado, ‘Amores Perros: Exotic Violence and Neoliberal Fear’ Journal of Latin American Cultural Studies, Vol.15, No.1, March, 2006, http://www.tandfonline.com.ezproxy4.lib.le.ac.uk/doi/abs/10.1080/13569320600596991#.UtAh7Z5_tyM [02/01/14] pp. 39-57(p.42)
[ 3 ]. E.Lawrenson, B. Pérez Soler, ‘Pup Fiction: an Interview with Alejandro González Iñárritu’ , Sight and Sound, Vol.3, No.11, 2001, http://web.ebscohost.com.ezproxy4.lib.le.ac.uk/ehost/detail?sid=764c12ee-4960-4aea-be92-005a084bb8ee%40sessionmgr114&vid=1&hid=103&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWhvc3QtbGl2ZQ%3d%3d#db=aft&AN=504938235 [08/01/14] pp.28-30
[ 4 ]. D.Shaw, Contemporary Cinema of Latin America: 10 Key Films, (The Continuum International Publishing Group Ltd: New York,2003) p.52.
[ 5 ]. P. Hutchings, The Horror Story, (Pearson Education Ltd: Essex, 2004), p.34.
[ 6 ]. A.E Hardcastle, ‘Ghosts of the Past and Present: Hauntology and the Spanish Civil War in Guillermo del Toro’s ‘The Devil’s Backbone’ Journal of the Fantastic in the Arts, Vol.15, No.2, Spring 2005, http://blackboard.le.ac.uk/bbcswebdav/pid-685834-dt-content-rid-991755_5/library/eReserves/SP2035/SP2035%20-%20Doc%2022093.pdf [28/12/13]pp.119-131 (p.124)
[ 7 ]. K.Chun, 'What is a ghost? An interview with Guillermo del Toro', Cineaste, Vol.27, No.2, Spring 2002, http://www.jstor.org.ezproxy4.lib.le.ac.uk/stable/41690128 [29/12/12] pp.28-31 (p.29)
[ 8 ]. E.Lawrenson, B. Pérez Soler, ‘Pup Fiction: an Interview with Alejandro González Iñárritu’ , Sight and Sound, Vol.3, No.11, 2001, http://web.ebscohost.com.ezproxy4.lib.le.ac.uk/ehost/detail?sid=764c12ee-4960-4aea-be92-005a084bb8ee%40sessionmgr114&vid=1&hid=103&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWhvc3QtbGl2ZQ%3d%3d#db=aft&AN=504938235 [08/01/14] pp.28-30
[ 9 ]. H. Amaya, ‘Amores Perros and Racialised Masculinities in Contemporary Mexico’ New Cinemas: Journal of Contemporary Film, Vol.5, No.3, 2007, http://blackboard.le.ac.uk/bbcswebdav/pid-696660-dt-content-rid-1567110_5/library/eReserves/SP2035/SP2035%20-%20Doc%2022091.pdf [08/01/14] p.201-216 (p.202)
[ 10 ]. D. Pearsons ‘Mighty Movie Podcast: Amat Escalante on Los Bastardos’ (2009), http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dan-persons/mighty-movie-podcast-amat_b_225048.html [06/01/14]
[ 11 ]. A.E Hardcastle, ‘Ghosts of the Past and Present: Hauntology and the Spanish Civil War in Guillermo del Toro’s ‘The Devil’s Backbone’ (p.124)
[ 12 ]. A.E Hardcastle, ‘Ghosts of the Past and Present: Hauntology and the Spanish Civil War in Guillermo del Toro’s ‘The Devil’s Backbone’ (p.123 )…...

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