The film I have chosen to work with is Jay Rosenblatt’s The Smell of Burning Ants because of way that the narration, score, and images come together to paint a terrifying picture of boyhood in a hyper-masculine culture. The initial viewing in class was a jarring experience but after watching the film again made it easier to pick apart because I knew what to expect.
Images – There’s something about the scene with the two boys, one pushing the other one down as he screams and cries which is inaudible to the audience. Then the boy takes him down to the ground. It’s all in slow motion, which both add to the dramatic effect of the interaction. I felt concerned and a little ache in my heart, the way a mother might.
Images & Score – The eerie music in the background as the screen flashes to a lineup of smiling school children makes them seem borderline menacing and, at the very least, that they’re up to no good. Rosemblatt slows the pace of the found footage throughout a lot of the film to intensify actions and make the audience really look at what’s going on. The music shrouds the film in a creepy, animalistic, Lord of the Flies-esque mood.
Narration – Rosenblatt’s narration throughout the film depicts the very real emotional struggle of what’s expected of young boys in a patriarchal, violence based society and being trapped in a binary gender construct. These particular quotes struck me the most:
“Boys become boys in large part by not being girls. The ones who don’t figure this out are the same ones who get beaten up. Later he will be with women and feel what he has been robbed of.” Referring to femininity, softness, emotions, domesticity…
“A boy is told not to cry.” Why is it that boys aren’t allowed to show their emotions or be vulnerable? Why are they punished for feeling?
“He is seven years old and is told to be a man.” …without even knowing what it means to be a man. What does it mean to be a man anyway?
And again, I’m hit with this maternal pain in my chest and my guts in knots…I’m left with issues and questions which no clear answers. I think that’s what makes this film brilliant is that it’s kind of scary and it makes you think and care. At least, that was my experience.