As I was attempting to absorb the video-game style fight scenes, hyper-coloured graphics and fast-paced editing of the new film Scott Pilgrim vs. The World last week, it occurred to me that I was bearing witness to the start of a revolution in filmmaking.
I admit that might be an overstatement. But there is no denying that the film opens up possibilities for representation due to its decidedly postmodern sensibility and experimental nature.
The film is an adaptation of a popular graphic novel series about the adventures of Canadian slacker Scott Pilgrim as he fights (in a series of video-game style battles with evil exes) for the girl of his dreams.
The film deviates from other comic book adaptations because the source text is quite ‘meta’, in that it is self aware of its nature as a comic. It is also playful, inserting video game conventions and popular culture references. The multiple layers of meaning that can be found within the text are translated surprisingly well to a film format, due to its innovative mash-up of live action, comic-book style animation and digital effects.
The use of digital photography and computer-generated effects complicates the notion that photography is a system that has the authority to capture an accurate representation of reality. Batchen suggests that computer-generated images do not need to refer to something with an external existence in reality, stating that “digital images are not so much signs but signs of signs. They are representations of what is already perceived to be a series of representations” (1997, p.213).
So what is the implication when digital images are mixed with real images of actors whose real emotions are captured and convey an accurate reflection of their experiences of reality?
A possible solution is to take on Tagg’s (1998) assertion that there is no overarching identity for photography; that it’s meaning is contingent on the context it is produced in. Predictions about the ‘death of photography’, as explored by Batchen (1997) feel premature, because they presuppose its replacement with a new form, a linear step in the evolution of technologies. But the significance of photography is in fact prolonged by its ability to adapt to emerging forms; to grow and become more versatile by virtue of its merging with technological developments.
In light of this, Scott Pilgrim can be seen to capture the zeitgeist of an era in which digital photography can in fact claim to deliver a meaningful experience to its audience who are well versed in the type of reality it represents, even if its version of reality is grounded in a fictional universe in which the protagonist is the star of his own video game.
Batchen, G. (1997) ‘Epitaph’ in Burning With Desire: The Conception of Photography, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, pp. 206-216
Tagg, J. (1988) ‘Evidence, Truth and Order: Photographic Records and the Growth of the State’ in J. Tagg (1993) The Burden of Representation: Essays oon Photographies and Histories, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, pp. 60-65