I really loved Marlon Rigg’s Tongues Untied for a number of reasons, but particularly for the way he weaved the poetry and the spoken language in the film with the visuals. I regard the framing throughout the film to be very important, as it emphasizes the important role language played in shaping and restricting his identity as he grew up. Particularly during the section where Riggs recites the monologue about silence, he frames the different mouths that recite the slurs. I understood the strong emphasis on the mouth as a symbol of its danger and ability to wound. The way the progression of slurs moves from “punk” to “Uncle Tom,” and the layering and switching of the audio as well, demonstrated the ways his perception changed to those around him, and there is a sense that he unconsciously was shaped by this progression as well. This transformation did not necessarily seem to be Riggs changing himself, but more him slowly being chipped away at by the bullet power of the words. He says he was “cornered by identities I never wanted to claim,” or shaped in others people’s eyes as someone he was not. This editing and framing was very powerful in evoking the importance of language, and I recognized the framing of the mouth throughout the film as a powerful tool to signify this.

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2 responses »

  1. sonyajendoubi says:

    I also felt like the poetry aspect truly added to the overall storyline and reminded me of the use of a beat to reflect the heartbeat of the community and the nation in other movies we have seen. The beat was sustained throughout Marlon Riggs’ work.

  2. alexanderlandau says:

    I also found the silence monologue scene fascinating. The scene’s simplicity makes the message it’s conveying so powerful. By just framing mouths reciting the slurs, it seems that Rigg’s is expressing that it’s not a particular group that is harassing black gay men, but rather American society at large.

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