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Watching Tarnation

maht91's picture

 I had a very uncertain reaction toward the documentary Tarnation by Johnathan Caouette when I started watching it. I was not sure what to look for and what to focus on in the light of our class discussion about truth and reality. However, as I continued watching the film, it became clear to me what was happening in his life and the struggle he was going through dealing with his mother's illness. The artistic techniques used in the movie were interesting at some points, but also very creepy at other points. I have also watched some parts of the documentary again but with Johnathan explaining certain aspects of the documentary. Watching the film a second time with Johnathan's voice helped reveal some of the "truths" that were involved in the filming and putting the documentary together.

General ideas I found interesting about the documentary:

-I liked the change in the pace of the nature images in the beginning of the documentary from slow to fast.

-I felt that Johnathan's reaction to his mother taking an overdose was so strong and real.

-Johnathan living in a dream came up multiple times. Dream is a form of fiction, it is about wanting to be in a different place, or seeing certain events. For instance, when he dreamed he had a conversation with his father.

-The TV image of being jumbled up came up multiple times. I wonder what effect it has on reflecting the state of mind of Johnathan?

-The concept of memory came up many times. At one point, someone said that Renee's memory receded in Johnathan. Johnathan is still trying to find the truth about his mother since he does not have the full memories with his mother. Memory comes up again when Johnathan is discussing with this grandfather whether him or Rossmarry abused Renee as a child. Can Renee remember whether they did that to her? To what extent has her memory been affected by her illness? I don't think you can get the truth about those events because Renee strongly believed that her parents abused her as a child. This stands in the way oh Johnathan discovering the truth about his mother, her illness, her childhood which would in turn help him understand himself as well. 

-The last sentences that Johnathan talked about towards the end of the documentary:

*I think the documentary "should only be told by the real people." However, how much can you believe the real people? His mother has an illness and his grandfather was old when he was answering Johnathan's questions. Again, the idea of memory.

*"I like showing real things."

*The ending "has to be the truth about me," about "bringing my mom home." He is working with what he has, and how much he knows about himself. I really liked the ending, specifically how he ended on something positive: life can be good or something along those lines compared to the very sad and strong emotional in the beginning of the documentary. 

*I found it interesting when towards the end of the documentary, Johnathan says that he has to depend on the outside or non-family members to get the truth about his mother and consequently himself. He just wants "to piece things together in the seek for the truth."


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