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Scenes from the SuburbsThe Suburb in Contemporary US Film and Television$
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Timotheus Vermeulen

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780748691661

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: January 2015

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9780748691661.001.0001

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Happiness: The Suburb and Film Style

Happiness: The Suburb and Film Style

(p.55) Chapter 2 Happiness: The Suburb and Film Style
Scenes from the Suburbs

Timotheus Vermeulen

Edinburgh University Press

The second chapter examines the ways in which Todd Solondz’ 1998 controversial ensemble film Happiness uses editing, composition, and tone to create a particular spatiality and sense of place – which will be called, following the philosopher Peter Sloterdijk, foam. Suburbs are often criticised for lacking a sense of place. The argument in this Chapter is that in Happiness placelessness functions specifically as a distinct and unmistakable sense of place. The argument is divided into three parts. In the first section the ways in which editing is used to maintain narrative coherence and visual consistency while simultaneously creating a sense of geographical dislocation, discontinuity, and isolation is observed. The second section analyses two scenes in terms of their composition, demonstrating that these scenes are composed visually as well as in terms of the plot in such a way so as to create a space that is at once communal and isolated, transitory and permanent. Finally, the third section discusses how the film negotiates stylistic register and diegesis in order to create a particular tone, or feeling, that the film associates directly with its environment.

Keywords:   Happiness, Editing, Composition, Mise-en-scene, Sense of place, Diegesis, Peter Sloterdijk

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