Week 12

The film JFK, by Oliver Stone,  offered an unique insight into the highly controversial assassination of American President, John F. Kennedy. The film used elements of hyperrealism to help express the time, society, and consciousness of the era. This film attempts to display a mixture of the reality of the situation along with a representation of the emotions of the time. Rapid montages are featured throughout the film as a means of conveying the seemingly constant turbulence of the 1960’s. Due to the artistic liberties taken in the stylistic design of the film, film critics wrote off the artistic use of hyper realism as ‘pointless MTV-style theatrics’. Randy Laist, author of the article Murder and Montage: Oliver Stone’s Hyperreal Period, believes that these critics overlook the effect that the stylized montages add to the film. He says,

“the [film] articulates the thesis that history, society, and consciousness itself have taken on the form of a hyperreal precession of mediated images. Rather than providing a window onto a secret reality, JFK […] enacts a fusion of representation and reality.” (Laist).

Oliver Stone also uses repetition to distort reality in order to make the actual event more impressionable on the viewers’ mind. For instance, repetition is used frequently in the found footage montage of John F. Kennedy’s assassination. In one sequence, Stone enlarges the infamous Zapruder footage, focuses on President Kennedy’s head and repeats the frames of the bullet impact which subsequently killed the President. The repetition of such a gruesome act creates a very strong impression on the viewer. This image confronts the audience with the brutal violence that took place to such a key figure in American History. More importantly, this sequence is used in an effort to persuade the viewer into accepting the possibility that the President was not shot from the 6th floor of the Texas School Book Depository, but was instead shot by a shooter located near the grassy knoll, based on the movement of the president’s head after he was shot. Oliver Stone repeats this footage in order to convince the audience that a second shooter must have been present during the assassination. By focusing on the point of impact and looping this clip, the information is deeply engrained into the viewer’s mind and sticks with them long after the movie ends. I found that this sequence was particularly striking to me and stayed in my mind long after the screening was finished. Oliver Stone’s hyperrealistic rendition of this extraordinarily significant piece of American history made the event feel much more emotional and personal.


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