Run and 9 Meter Films Review
For this assignment, the short films Run (written and directed by Jack Weatherley) and 9 Meter (written and directed by Anders Walter) were chosen for examining the interpretation and representation of the concept of Arête in cinematic texts related to sport. Both films convey the idea of the Gained in Struggle Excellence; however, they register different means and goals of high athletic performance and sportsman ethics existing in a contemporary discourse. The short films Run and 9 Meter contrast in the depiction of the Arête-possessing protagonist because the former gravitates to static dreamy realism while the later tends to rather dramatic tone, thus reflecting the harmonic and the damaging ways of practicing the notion of Arête.
Noteworthy, the Run’s filmmakers specified the genre of the short in its subtitle. Intended and designed as “the Moving Portrait of Paula Radcliffe”, Run has a carefully constructed mise en scene that pictures a road closely and a forest landscape panoramically. The setting harmonizes with the narrator’s monolog and serves as a natural surrounding for Paula’s idea and practice of personal philosophy. A viewer sees the runner in fine detail due to various camera angles and movements. The frame of Paula Radcliffe filmed running with backlighting is particularly eloquent because it places her in silhouette, thus creating an effect of a personality gap in the frame. Due to this effect, a viewer can unconsciously place him or herself in this scene and relate to the person more easily.
In Run, the narrator’s monolog truly sounds like a paraphrase of the extended definition of the concept of Arête put through a personal experience of Paula Radcliffe’s life in accordance with the notion. It is hard to even think of a better way for comprehending what Arête is, except, of course, of an attempt to live this life oneself. Evidently, running has multiple noble functions in her physical, social, and mental life, proving Ancient Greek ideas about Arête being effective for balancing one’s personality development. A viewer who is familiar with the nation of Arête is going to recognize it immediately. What is more, because of Run being a story based on real events and person, one gets to reflect on the concept staying awake enough to feel the beauty of the idea. Arguably, the whole think would not be taken into serious consideration if pictured more like a fantasy because ideas of such a complexity and perfection are mostly understood as unrealistic to implement. For this reason, a viewer’s relation to the story and the lifestyle of the narrator benefits from Run’s realism considerably.
In 9 Meter, Arête is depicted in a completely different context. It is not the way of life; for the protagonist, it is a question of life and death. Daniel’s Arête is imperfect, misunderstood, damaged by the highly traumatizing situation, and full of despair. However imperfect it is, his “Being the Best You Can Be” is, indeed, far from an excellence just for the sake of excellence. It extends even a journey of self-improvement mode and a personal philosophy. His reasoning is quite irrational but driven by hope and despair. Daniel interprets (or persuaded himself) his Excellence Gained in Struggle as the last chance to save his mother. That implies that if he fails, he tried not hard enough. Also, it denotes probable lethal risk in case if he tries too hard. There is an important thing to unpack from this statement: Daniel’s Arête is delusive and can be fatal for him.
One may argue that in 9 Meter, Benjamin Gabrielsen’s character shows some typical features of an anti-hero. Firstly, Daniel has obvious flaws. These flaws are rooted in his age, life situation, and lifestyle. The three indicated factors form the basis of the plot drama: a teenager who is a dedicated athlete tries to save his mother by set a record which has to be so impressive that the mother (Christine Albeck Børge) cannot remain in a coma. Daniel is hotheaded, injudicious, and, arguably, selfish. He is unable to examine objective cause-effect relations and conclude that risking his life cannot save his mother. What is more, he forgets that when she dies he will remain his father’s only family; Daniel puts his father in a position when the latter is at risk to lose both the wife and the son without being aware or able to influence this. Secondly, the protagonist increasingly becomes disillusioned with his close surrounding and medical stuff that, basically, represent the society that surrendered before his mother’s condition. Finally, his behavior is not conventional for an athlete. He tries to use adrenaline to increase his performance despite the risk and for the sake of greater good. That fits the frame of an anti-hero perfectly.
However, much less prominent character displays some of the anti-hero characteristics as well. It is not the most obvious claim but when one comes to look closely s/he might notice a person who is of a certain moral complexity as well, and, what is more important, rejected a hope and the sanctity of his wife’s life for the sake of his personal peace. Daniel’s father is what one may call a second plan anti-hero. He is constructed in order for Daniel to look more contrast in his dramatic efforts; a viewer even feels some negative towards this character’s passiveness in the first half of the film’s running time.
Keeping in mind everything stated above, it seems reasonable to frame these sets of ideas and details with more general claims. In the case of Run, one sees sport and athletics interpreted as a metaphor for the personal philosophy. The fact that this philosophy is complex, rich, enormously time and effort consuming, yet, consistently implemented in a real person’s life and career only adds the weight for the main idea in the eyes of a viewer. Being familiar with the notion of Arête and its long and ancient history, one may also feel the magnificence of such an idea actually fulfilled in this chaotic modern world. All of that combined with mise en scene of the moving portrait of a runner and the mindful narration makes the athletics look like a personal philosophy worth admiring, which it certainly is. 9 Meter represents an opposite case. In this movie, one can see the Arête that is challenged, damaged, hysterical, depressive, and, potentially, fatal for the athlete. The drama relies heavily on dangerous settings, irrational and desperate reasoning, the protagonist’s young age and unsportsmanlike behavior, culminating in the open finale to emphasize the idea of sport being a way of coping with grief, not the plot’s outcome.
To conclude, contemporary interpretation, implementation in life, and representation in cinematic texts of the Ancient Greek notion of Arête (excellence gained in the struggle) are not unambiguous. It is evident that modern culture can represent the idea of being the best one can be in a realistic way in order to inspire people and in the dramatic one to introduce the idea of sport being a therapeutic activity. In Run, the audience is contemplating an eloquent narrator in a peaceful setting who invites us inside her reflection on running as a personal philosophy. In 9 Meter, a viewer is introduced to an unexpected tragic dimension of Arête and left to decide if it was healing or lethal for that both variants remain possible in the open finale of the film.