Friday, 28 February 2014

Plan For The Film Of An Alien Siege




Part 1 - Sieges

A siege is pretty much the most boring thing that can happen in war ever. Its organised waiting. There are loads of films about sieges. Even films that aren’t set in wars are about sieges (Night of the Living Dead, Assault on Precinct 13). Of all these films, I can’t remember one where the point of view of the viewer was with the attacking forces. We are always inside. The good guys always defend.

Because they have better camera angles. The view from an arrow slit is also pretty good for a camera.

Bullshit, except not really. Of all the places I can imagine, the besieged fortification has the most perfect unity between its geography, (the physical positioning of people within and around it,) and its narrative.

Imagine a film about a siege and start thinking about the kinds of information you could remove and still have the film make some kind of sense as a comprehensible story.

Music, easy. Sound? Ok, no more voices, and no subtitles either. Those are the easy ones.

Colour? Gone. Black and white only.

Faces? Gone. Pixelate them.

Identifying marks. Body shapes. Gender. Clothes. Uniforms. Gone. Only grey shapes remain.

Era? Ok, take away the background of any distance shots, grey that out. Black out anything non-human that isn’t also built environment. No more nature. Now take away the detail of the environment. No more stone, no more sandbags. Only mass. Mass and grey moving shapes.

But some grey shapes are still outside and some are still inside. And the ones out are trying to get in.

Movement. Cut to one frame per second instead of 24.

Time? Ok, this one probably wouldn’t work.  You do need time to tell a story.

You couldn’t tell shit about this story, but if someone asks you what’s going on, but you could probably say “It’s about one group of people-things trying to get into a thing and another group of people –things want to keep them out.”

Everything flows out from peoples relations in space.



Part 2 – Inside and Outside

So I started trying to count the ways the space shapes the story. This is what I came up with.


Defenders
Attackers
1
Look out. They see a Landscape, their opponent is a shifting mass on a single plain.
Look in. They focus on a single object (the fort) which is vertically orientated.
2
As the narrative goes on they lose this landscape view. They focus on the inside of a familiar structure which becomes alien and threatening. They focus on a concentrated projected stream of force.
As the narrative goes on, they focus not just upon the central mass, but upon one point of that mass. (The gate, the breach)
3
They try to retain and increase physical mass in the most literal sense. Building, piling, arranging, amassing.
They try to destroy mass, to abrade it to nothingness, to create pure space.
4
They seek stasis.
They seek movement and change.
5
Are unobserved, socially opaque (attackers cannot see who they talk to, when or why), but are in physical danger. (Rocks, arrows, bombs.)
Are observed, (can be seen walking around)  socially exposed but more likely to be physically safe.
6
Are in close physical communication with each other. (Can see, touch, grab and shout at each other.)
Must move to reach, touch, grab or shout to each other. More physically separate.
7
Are likely to act across class, race and gender lines. More and more likely as the story goes on.
(“Not bad … for an elf”)
Likely to reflect social hierarchy. Act as miniature of origin society with power relationships intact.
8
Likely to expose positive personal characteristics hidden by social characteristics.
Personal power directly represented and usually accurate. Exactly as dangerous as they look.
9
A group of individuals with names.
A mass. “You there!”
10
If they change morally, tend to become morally stronger (UNLESS IT’S A HORROR FILM)
If they change morally, tend to become weaker.

So this is quite nice. It turns out all those siege films are really about a group of disparate people forced into circumstances where hierarchy, class, race and gender lines will fall away and they can act together as one, (without losing their individuality) in an overriding moral cause.

This is basically the tribal story of the West. It is our Ur-tale, or one of them. (Along with the love story and the story of the guy that kills a lot of guys.) A group of very different people have to face a challenge, doing so they learn to understand and value each other and work together as a team, but without being subsumed as people. If we had shaman, this is the story they would tell.

This might be the story of a bunch of cultures, I don’t really know. To me it feel arch-western and specifically post WWII.

If this was a culture-studies class then we could stop there and consider ourselves very clever. Of course we have something much more important to do. We must plan a model fort for an alien siege.

Part Three – Aliens

Let’s scramble the info we have so far and re-arrange it to create the sides in an alien siege.

Attackers

Look out. They see a Landscape, their opponent is a shifting mass on a single plain.
As the narrative goes on, they focus not just upon the central mass, but upon one point of that mass. (The gate, the breach)
They try to retain and increase physical mass in the most literal sense. Building, piling, arranging, amassing.
They seek movement and change.
Are unobserved, socially opaque (attackers cannot see who they talk to, when or why), but are in physical danger. (Rocks, arrows, bombs.)
Must move to reach, touch, grab or shout to each other. More physically separate.
Personal power directly represented and usually accurate. Exactly as dangerous as they look.
A group of individuals with names.
Are likely to act across class, race and gender lines. More and more likely as the story goes on.
(“Not bad … for an elf”)
If they change morally, tend to become weaker.

Is there any shape that can make sense of this?
Aliens attacking outwards, into a shifting mass, building and arranging, trying to change things.
Doing this while in danger. Unseen, distant from each other. Look dangerous and are dangerous. Named individuals.
They work across class lines but may become weaker.

Philosopher-Wasps? Breaking into.. something? Powerful, dangerous, intelligent builders. Maybe they build with the bodies of their enemies? Maybe they build very quickly and well on their own according to their own plans, each different, hyper-adaptive artist-wasps? As time goes on their invasion slackens, becomes more difficult, they speak across art-clade boundaries, but this makes them too similar, easy to kill. Art-wasps building hyper-individual puzzle-box invasion saps, invading.. who?


Defenders

Look in. They focus on a single object (the fort) which is vertically orientated.
As the narrative goes on they lose this landscape view. They focus on the inside of a familiar structure which becomes alien and threatening. They focus on a concentrated projected stream of force.
They try to destroy mass, to abrade it to nothingness, to create pure space.
They seek stasis.
Are observed, (can be seen walking around)  socially exposed but more likely to be physically safe.
Are in close physical communication with each other. (Can see, touch, grab and shout at each other.)
Likely to reflect social hierarchy. Act as miniature of origin society with power relationships intact.
Likely to expose positive personal characteristics hidden by social characteristics.
A mass. “You there!”
If they change morally, tend to become morally stronger (UNLESS IT’S A HORROR FILM)

So these are some kind of hive-beings. They live in a place, (a plane?) where some new physical thing has arrived. The saps of the art-wasps expand out of it as physical masses, which they must destroy in order to keep things the way they have always been. But they may be losing and their familiar place? has become strange and threatening. They can be seen easily from the saps but are hard to harm. They are packed in closely to each other. They are hierarchal and this won’t change during the film but they will reveal positive personal characteristics during it.

My first thought is that the hive beings represent some kind of living anti-space and the art-wasps are colonising it, reducing it to matter with their novel fractal constructions, killing the hive-beings and using their solidified corpses to build more.

The hive-beings can destroy matter but the more original and unexpected it is the more likely they are to die trying to destroy it and end up being reduced to mere matter themselves. The Art-Wasps are burrowing into them, staring out through portholes in their invasion-structures, looking at the hordes of pale massless things, innovating and dreaming of destruction, but slowly running out of ideas while the peaceful hive-things slowly try to adapt their conservative hierarchal society to prevail. The Hyper-Wasps are close to reaching the core of the ghost-hive.

So if there’s a film it’s about these hive-ghosts fighting to protect, maybe Nirvana? from the hideous hyper-individual invaders. Or maybe it’s a tragedy about a brave group of wild alpha-wasp adventurers who had the nerve to challenge the rulers of the limbo-space and change things for everyone, maybe that’s what wasp parents tell their children before they sleep. Maybe wasps cry when the credits roll.

“That’s why you have to have your own idea’s, dream your own dreams. Never be too much like anyone else.”

Part Four - Toys

How do we represent this as a sculpture in three-dimensional space? How do we turn it into a game?

The wasps are represented by shining metallic 3d puzzle pieces. Each is a different shape. All of the shapes are sharp-angled and violent looking. They can be linked together but only novel connections can be made.

The hive beings are hollow paper constructions, they can block off parts of the board. Like in ‘Go’, except you are playing against the space itself.

Wasp-player can turn Hive-players pieces to more Wasp pieces if they touch. But, if Wasp player repeats any connections without realising it, Hive player can remove Wasp pieces from the board.

Hive player has a core, or maybe just a volume. If Wasp player can encompass (like ‘Go’) or cross it somehow, then they win. If they run out of pieces , or fall into stasis, they lose.




It’s not quite 40k, but you get the idea. The elements have numbers so you can scramble your own. Find out the story-logic of the two sides. Then create alien races that make sense of that logic, direct the film in your head. Then create and sculpture or game-piece based on the logic of the alien siege. Totally different alien forts for each try.

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