This Feels Like Traumacore…

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This Feels Like Traumacore…

first ones with sound. After years of film with no sound, once sound techniques progressed, the next step for many directors was to go heavy on the dialogue. Mumblecore films, then, are like witty, low budget films with heavy dialogue. Some of the films that may fall under mumblecore can be so interestingly written that you forgive the lack of a set or forgive the low budget look of it all.

When I tried to describe Puenzo’s film, I thought back to the notion of mumblecore and thought of the word traumacore. As I conceive it, traumacore is a genre of film that centers on various human traumas, throwing any kind of resemblance to a storyline to the wind. The films are focused on a series of traumatic experiences that happen to the characters, as opposed to why or how. In dealing with the idea of a film genre with –“core” attached, you are claiming that an idea or subject is the basic or most important part of the work. And the major core here is use of trauma and the excessive amount in which and how it occurs in the film. There is also the tendency in traumacore to fetishize and objectify trauma to the point of neglecting the development of the character that the trauma is happening to.

What makes us watch things like this?! I’ve often asked myself this question. Whenever I have a chance to be in a hotel while on the road I often find myself up all hours of the night watching ‘The First 48’ like it’s really going to help me get a good night’s sleep. Then I realize that I am actually watching a marathon presentation of a reality show about the first 48 hours after a real life person had been murdered-often times horrifically- and I get freaked out and turn the channel. I also sat through the entirety of Lars Von Trier’s batshit crazy film AntiChrist, which put me in such a disturbed state of mind that I stopped watching films for almost a week and a half.

Tyler Perry loves this shit. I mean this is the man who took For Colored Girls… and said fuck the beautiful, complex, and the empowering aspects of the written work. His melodramatic mind put many of the characters in the same building and highlighted their trauma (rape, back alley abortion, domestic violence, murder, child abuse and death, etc.) in the most literal way known to any screenwriter/filmmaker. I can honestly say that I not only own the book, but I also have seen the play several times, and nothing compares to the shitty way I felt when I left Perry’s film adaptation.

Then there is Precious, which after watching, I felt like I wanted to bathe in order to wash the film from my pores. I had quite an intense and odd experienced while watching Precious when I saw it in my neighborhood theatre, which was filled to capacity by an audience that literally laughed out loud at viewing horrific moments of violence. For example, during the scene where Precious gets hit upside her head by that cast iron skillet thrown with quarterback precision by her mother, played by the comedienne Mo’Nique, I couldn’t tell if I was watching a serious, dramatic work or if I was watching a comedy.

Traumacore could possibly be seen as a form of highly styled cinema S & M. Traumacore is NOT lacking in the budget area, but often times very much in the dialogue and structure area. It’s almost as if the viewer can be in the mind state of ‘lets see how much I can take in one viewing session’, except the equivalent of a safe word would be to either to turn off your tv, change the channel, or just up and walk out of the damn theatre. Although I will admit at one point in watching all of the films mentioned I did say ‘stop’. Very quietly, and almost to myself. But I didn’t stop watching.

My personal film tastes run toward slow, sad, methodical films that no one ever wants to go and watch with me. I saw Puenzo’s earlier film XXY and thought it was quite brilliant. I’m also a documentary filmmaker with a love for social realist film and artwork. Give me the truth, the whole truth, or nothing but the truth-and don’t make shit pretty. I’m not saying that reality is void of traumatic events and that film shouldn’t show or use trauma as an element of storytelling, that would not be realistic or productive to cinema and/or its audience, but when the traumas that the characters are experiencing outshines the characters themselves, then the idea of traumacore becomes very disturbing.

©2011 tiona.m.

Comments [2]

Grace Moon's picture

Call me old fashion but there

but there is an obsession with violence that gets fetishized in Cinema and other arts, at the point in which it exceeds the point of the narrative I tune out. I detest the grotesque in the fine arts and will walk by it without hesitation in galleries.

Astute commentary thanks.

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Conlite's picture

I guess I'm just not in to

I guess I'm just not in to movie S&M.  Thoughtful commentary though.