When it comes to defining the discursive significance of a particular movie, it often becomes rather indispensable subjecting it to a textual analysis. In my paper, I will explore the validity of this suggestion at length, in regards to the 2007 film Lions for Lambs, directed by Robert Redford.
The main theme of Lions for Lambs is that, contrary to what it is being commonly assumed, many top-ranking politicians in America, who define the essence of the country’s foreign policies, refuse to learn the lessons of history, which in turn results in the needless deaths of American soldiers, stationed abroad. Given the fact that this theme is rather controversial, it was crucially important for the director to succeed in ensuring its psychological/discursive plausibility. In its turn, this explains the qualitative features of the film’s cinematographic format:
a) The way in which Lions for Lambs has been edited, allows us to identify it is a ‘classical’ film. The key features of the classical type of cinematographic editing are: the representational integrity of the plot, the presence of prolonged takes and the fact that even particularly short takes, featured in the film, are psychologically interconnected. The additional reason for us to refer to Lions for Lambs as a classically edited movie, is that the concerned film depicts the flow of events in the highly realistic manner. In its turn, this has been accomplished by the fact that Lions for Lambs is composed out of the spatially unified takes, which help viewers to experience the sensation of a ‘spatial continuity’, while being exposed to the on-screen action. The fact that this indeed happened to be the case can be illustrated, in relation to the sub-sequential scenes, in which Janine Roth (Meryl Streep) is having conversation with Senator Jasper Irving (Tom Cruise).
For example, in one of these scenes, Janine asks Jasper about why he believes in the effectiveness of the exclusively military solutions in Afghanistan, with the camera being focused on her while she does it (00.12.40). By the time, Jasper begins to answer this question; he is shown from behind, with Janine continuing to remain in the take’s center (00.12.42). It is only a few seconds later, after Jasper starts to reply, that he becomes the actual focus of the viewers’ perceptual attention. As a result, viewers are able to confirm to themselves that the conversation in question takes place in the ‘real-time’ mode.
b) Lions for Lambs features three seemingly unrelated plotlines (narratives), concerned with the mentioned dialogue between Janine and Jasper, the dialogue between Stephen Malley (Robert Redford) and Todd Hayes (Andrew Garfield), and the ill-planned military operation, resulting in the ultimate demise of Arian Finch (Derek Luke) and Ernest Rodriguez (Michael Pena). One of the reasons for it is that, being somewhat controversial, the movie’s main theme needed to be explored from a variety of different perspectives, as the mean of ensuring its plausibility. This provides us with the additional reason to define the film’s style of editing as ‘classical’, because it is indeed being a commonplace practice in classically edited movies to be concerned with exploring more than one plotline.
c) In Lions for Lambs, the director made a deliberate point in striving to ensure the psychological soundness of the featured characters’ act. The validity of this suggestion can be illustrated, in regards to the scene, in which Jasper expounds on the sheer necessity for the U.S. to act as a ‘bully’ in the arena of international politics (00.28.13). After all, throughout the course of the scene’s entirety, a half of Jasper’s face (turned away from the window) remains in shadow. This, in turn, prompts viewers to consider the possibility that this character’s agenda having not been quite as transparent, as he would like Janine to believe. The fact that (as we learn later in the film) Jasper was giving it a thought to run for President, confirms the validity of this idea. Apparently, while working on Lions for Lambs, the director remained well aware of yet another important convention of the classical style of film-editing – ensuring that, when exposed to the characters’ act, viewers are able to gain an in-depth insight into the workings of the concerned individuals’ mentality. The same can be said about the significance of the fact that a number of dramatic monologues, featured in this particular movie, reflect the so-called ‘stream of consciousness’, on the part of the affiliated characters. This, of course, contributes even further towards increasing the psychological soundness of the film’s plotline.
d) Lions for Lambs is a highly allegorical movie. The film’s name alone exemplifies the legitimacy of this suggestion, because it serves as the powerful allegory to the fact that, in today’s America, it is specifically the money-greedy/ego-driven individuals (lambs), who give orders to those citizens that happened to be idealistically minded/courageous (lions). The actual settings of most of the film’s scenes serve essentially the same purpose. For example, Jasper is shown promoting his ideas in the office of a Senator, with this office’s window-blinds remaining closed, throughout the film’s entirety. This, of course, is meant to symbolize the fact that America’s top-officials do not actually relate to the lives of this country’s ordinary citizens. Another example – the panoramic shots of mountains in Afghanistan, in the scenes where Arian Finch and Ernest Rodriguez are shown fighting Taliban guerrillas. These shots are there to suggest that ‘real life’ does not quite fit into the provisions of a particular political ideology, which happened to be dominant in the White House. In is understood, of course, that this adds rather substantially to the sheer intensity of the film’s dramatic overtones, which is another qualitative feature of the classical genre in cinematography and literature.
As far as my personal opinion is being concerned, the director’s decision to choose in favor of the classical editing-method is thoroughly justified. The reason for this is that, due to the unconventional sounding of the film’s themes and motifs, the director had no option but to explore them in the manner that correlates with the way, in which people’s psyche actually operates. Given the fact that Lions for Lambs turned out a commercial success, we can safely suggest that he did succeed in it. As the best indication that this indeed happened to be the case, serves the fact that the concerned film is simultaneously both: aesthetically pleasing and intellectually stimulating. I believe that the deployed earlier line of argumentation, in defense of the idea that Lions for Lambs is indeed a classically edited film and that it represents a high discursive value, is fully consistent with the paper’s initial thesis
Lions for Lambs. Dir. Robert Redford. Perf. Robert Redford, Meryl Streep, Tom Cruise, Michael Pena, Andrew Garfield and Derek Luke. United Artists, 2007. Film.