The Aesthetics of Asymmetrical Warfare: Cinematic representation of 21st Century Conflict

Marshall, Kingsley ORCID logoORCID: (2021) The Aesthetics of Asymmetrical Warfare: Cinematic representation of 21st Century Conflict. In: The Palgrave Handbook on Violence in Film & Media. The Palgrave Handbook . Palgrave Macmillan., London. ISBN 978-3031053894 (In Press)

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Abstract / Summary

The paper asserts that innovative production practices have been adopted by filmmakers, in part, as a response to representing the compromised nature of recent conflicts that have been complicated by unknowability and complexity. Contemporary warfare has been characterised as asymmetrical; where new modes of 21st century conflict can be distinguished from the “old wars” of the 20th century in terms of their politics, use of technology and combat tactics (Freedman and Barnett, 2003; Kaldor 2012).
Joshua Clover has described this as having presented an “unnarratability” (2009: 9) to the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and, more recently, Syria. I argue that filmmakers have made use of unconventional and sophisticated combination of sound design, cinematography and visual editing in cinema in order to emulate transmedia representations of these conflicts and that this aesthetic builds upon news media, documentary, video games and emergent forms such as first-person combatant-originated footage.
A number of films advance what I describe as a Gulf War Aesthetic, which privileges verisimilitude through the combination of subjective first-person point of view with a similarly subjective sonic point of audition. This paper makes use of The Hurt Locker (Bigelow, 2009) as a primary case study in order to certain tendencises of this aesthetic and brings together two traditions of analysis – the study of film’s production discourse through practitioner interview and the textual analysis of the intrasoundtrack, or relationship between the visual components of the film and elements of the soundtrack – dialogue, effects, music and silence (Altman, Jones and Tatroe: 2000: 339-346).

Indicative Bibliography
Altman, R., Jones, M. and Tatroe, S. (2000) ‘Inventing the Cinema Soundtrack: Hollywood’s Multiplane Soundsystem’, in Buhler, J., Flinn, C., and Neumeyer, D. (eds.) Music and Cinema (Music/Culture). Hanover, US: University Press of New England, pp. 339–359.
Bigelow, K. and Boal, M. (2009) ‘Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal Interview’. Interview with Kingsley Marshall for Unpublished Transcript, 20 September 2009.
Clover, Joshua. (2009) ‘Allegory Bomb’, Film Quarterly, 63(2), pp.8-9.
The Hurt Locker (2009) Directed by Kathryn Bigelow [Film]. USA: Summit Entertainment.
Freedman, L.D. and Barnett, R. (2003) ‘Asymmetrical Warfare: Today’s Challenge to U.S. Military power’, Foreign Affairs, 82(3), p. 151.
Kaldor, M. (2012) New and Old Wars: Organized Violence in a Global Era. 3rd edn. Washington DC, US: Stanford University Press.
Sergi, G. (2004) The Dolby Era: Film Sound in Contemporary Hollywood (Inside Popular Film). Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press.
Stilwell, R. (2001) ‘Sound and Empathy: Subjectivity, Gender and the Cinematic Soundscape’, in Donnelly, K. (ed.) Film Music: Critical Approaches. New York, US: Continuum, pp. 167–187.
Stilwell, R. (2003) ‘Breaking Sound Barriers: The Soundscapes of The Loveless to Blue Steel’, in Jermyn, D. and Redmond, S. (eds.) The Cinema of Kathryn Bigelow: Hollywood Transgressor. London, UK: Wallflower Press, pp. 32–56.
Stilwell, R. (2015) ‘Audiovisual Space in an Era of Technological Convergence’, in Richardson, J., Gorbman, C., and Vernallis, C. (eds.) The Oxford Handbook of New Audiovisual Aesthetics. Oxford, UK: Oxford University

Item Type: Book Section
Uncontrolled Keywords: conflict, war studies, production cultures, ukraine, afghanistan, iraq, syria, ethics,
ISBN: 978-3031053894
Subjects: Film & TV > Film > British Film
Communication > Media > Digital Media
Music > Digital Music
Film & TV > Film > Hollywood Film
Film & TV > Film > International Film
Music > Sound Design
Courses by Department: The School of Film & Television > Film
The School of Film & Television > Television
Depositing User: Kingsley Marshall
Date Deposited: 11 Nov 2019 09:58
Last Modified: 13 Oct 2022 17:29


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