During a preview tour, a theme park suffers a major power breakdown that allows its cloned dinosaur exhibits to run amok.
“Spielberg is de Walt Disney van de Nieuwe Film. Hij zorgt voor het family entertainment nieuwe stijl. Hij maakt films die het verlengde zijn van pretparken, die op hun beurt het verlengde zijn van nieuwe filmsensaties. Het medium vormt het lichaamsbeeld van de kinderen, hier worden de psychische patronen uitgezet waarop een later leven zijn ficties zal enten. Beelden functioneren hier niet als beeld, maar induceren fysieke sensaties en verhalen die drijven op ambivalenties. Want de ongehoorzame kinderen van weleer hebben nu volwassenen naast zich voor wie verantwoordelijkheid onbelangrijk zijn. Spielberg laat zijn personages en de toeschouwer in dat potje sudderen. De volwassen bezoeker herkent zich moeiteloos in zowel de klacht van de kinderen als in de krasse beperkingen van de volwassen. Goede gezinstherapie!”
“When Sophie Fiennes approached me with the idea to do a “pervert’s guide” to cinema, our shared goal was to demonstrate how psychoanalytic cinema-criticism is still the best we have, how it can generate insights which compel us to change our entire perspective. The “pervert” from the title is thus not a narrow clinical category; it rather refers to perverting – turning around - our spontaneous perceptions.
The usual reproach to psychoanalytic criticism is that it reduces everything to family complexes: whatever the story, it “really about” Oedipus, incest, etc. Instead of trying to prove that this is not true, one should accept the challenge. The films which are furthest from family dramas are catastrophe films, which cannot but fascinate the viewer with a spectacular depiction of a terrifying event of immense proportions. This brings us to the first psychoanalytic rule of how to read catastrophe movies: we should avoid the lure of the “big event” and re-focus on the “small event” (familial relations), reading the spectacular catastrophe as an indication of the family trouble. Take Steven Spielberg: the secret motif than runs through all his key films - E.T., Empire of the Sun, Jurassic Park, Schindler’s List - is the recovery of the father, of his authority. One should remember that the family to whose small boy E.T. appears was deserted by the father (as we learn in the very beginning), so that E.T. is ultimately a kind “vanishing mediator” who provides a new father (the good scientist who, in the film’s last shot, is already seen embracing the mother) - when the new father is here, E.T. can leave “go home.”
And the same story goes on and on. Empire of the Sun focuses on a boy deserted by his family in the war-torn China and surviving through the help of an ersatz-father (played by John Malkovich). In the very first scene of Jurassic Park, we see the paternal figure (played by Sam Neill) jokingly threatening the two kids with a dinosaur bone - this bone is clearly the tiny object-stain which, later, explodes into gigantic dinosaurs, so that one can risk the hypothesis that, within the film’s fantasmatic universe, the dinosaurs’ destructive fury merely materializes the rage of the paternal superego. A barely perceptible detail that occurs later, in the middle of the film, confirms this reading. The pursued group of Neill with two kids take refugee from the murderous carnivorous dinosaurs in a gigantic tree, where, dead tired, they fall asleep; on the three, Neill loses the dinosaur bone that was stuck in his belt, and it is as if this accidental loss has a magic effect - before they fall asleep, Neill is reconciled with the children, displaying warm affection and care for them. Significantly, the dinosaurs which approach the three next morning and awaken the sleeping party, turn out to be of the benevolent herbivorous kind... Schindler’s List is, at the most basic level, a remake of Jurassic Park (and, if anything, worse than the original), with the Nazis as the dinosaur monsters, Schindler as (at the film’s beginning) the cynical-profiteering and opportunistic parental figure, and the ghetto Jews as threatened children (their infantilization in the film is eye-striking) - the story the film tells is about Schindler's gradual rediscovery of his paternal duty towards the Jews, and his transformation into a caring and responsible father.”
“Jurassic Park is not an obvious nostalgia film and may be a puzzling choice as such for Americans. The film is oriented largely to children, who are not known to be nostalgic. It has neither Proustian moments of individual longing for a lost place and time, nor total Disney-style recreation of small-town life with period-clothed teenagers kissing on the spacious back seats of 1950s cars. The film exemplifies a different kind of nostalgia, not psychological but mythical, that has to do with a heroic American national identity. This kind of mythical nostalgia has geopolitical implications, since the dinosaur is a creature of global popular culture exported all over the world. What might appear as an expensive children’s game, innocuous and universal in the United States, strikes viewers in other parts of the world as an exemplary staging of the American myth, the myth of a new world that forgot its history and recreated prehistory brand-new-.”
“Phenomenologically, our social and cultural experience of watching movies has been irreversibly transformed by television, video, the computer, and computer networking. Has the medium of motion pictures also changed? And if so, what are the consequences for the study of film? The enormous popularity of Jurassic Park (1993) and the effect it had on mainstream filmmakers marked a turning point in this respect wherein the relative positioning of the photographic and the digital was reversed. From this moment forward, the major creative forces in the industry began to think of the photographic process as an obstacle to creativity, as something to be overcome, rather than as the very medium of cinematic creation. In a previous era of cinematic creation, the physical world both inspired and resisted the imagination; in the age of digital synthesis, physical reality has entirely yielded to the imagination. In this state of affairs, celluloid filmstock continues to persist primarily as a distribution medium because of the installed base of projection equipment in movie theaters and worries about piracy. But this may not continue for long.”
Gerard-Jan Claes and Nina de Vroome: You are translating a world of words to a world of images, which is always exterior. You are also writing a story in which characters are performing actions and are placed in specific situations. Are you indicating the director how he is supposed to translate those words back into images? For example, in Jurassic Park, you have specifically paid attention to the way things are revealed. The first time we see the dinosaurs, there is an elaborate build-up to the moment the spectator actually gets to see them. We first see the expression of the characters discovering the creatures, the impact it has on them, before discovering them ourselves. Is this procedure of looking and revealing part of the script?
David Koepp: Yes, the screenwriter has a responsibility to describe all the images, to conceive all of them. With Jurassic Park, Steven [Spielberg] was working on the project before me. The great filmmaker that he is, he had of course brilliant visual concepts, so he contributed extensively to the development of the script. But in any script I still think it is the writer’s responsibility to take the first crack in any action or adventure sequence, and describe it in ways that make it seem visually come alive. When I started working on Jurassic Park, Steven already had a clear idea about certain sequences. So I was lucky in that regard. But normally I am always writing my first path of how I think the action scenes should be. You need to write in such a way that you are invoking images in the reader’s mind. Not just particular images, but mainly the rhythm in which you want them to occur. If the scene is going faster, you provide more space on the page because the person will start to read faster. Then their mind will be creating the movie as they read. I spend a lot of time with that, because it’s an essential part of screenwriting and I think too many writers just fall back on the lumps of descriptions, saying “the director will figure out the action scenes.” No, you have to figure out the action scenes first and you have to present it in a way that not just the director, but everybody that reads it, can see it. For example, I use a lot of white space on the page, break sentences midway through to imply that there’s a cut, any other tricks I can use to arrange the words on the page. That it flows like an action scene and not just a dead splotch of indecipherable action. Writing an action scene is a very particular skill. It’s craft.
Gerard-Jan Claes and Nina de Vroome in conversation with David Koepp, screenwriter of Jurassic Park5
- 1. Dirk Lauwaert, “Spielberg versus Rohmer,” Kunst & Cultuur, nr. 12, 1992.
- 2. Slavoj Žižek, “A Pervert’s Guide to Family,” Lacan Dot Com.
- 3. Svetlana Boym, The Future of Nostalgia, (New York: Basic Books, 2001) 46.
- 4. D.N. Rodowick, The Virtual Life of Film, (London: Harvard University Press, 2007) 28.
- 5. Gerard-Jan Claes and Nina de Vroome, ““I have never been a big fan of reality”. A Conversation with David Koepp,” Sabzian, 4 July 2018.