performative statements, and coherence

I was going to start with the part about the movie, but, you know, words!

I like words and classifications of words and sentences, as you can tell here.

I get the A.Word.A.Day emails, which are cool, but this one really caught my attention, since it’s about classification:

Some statements are “performative,” meaning that by saying them you are making them happen. “I promise” is one example — by saying it you’re doing it. Another example, from the French, would be “J’accuse!”

“With this ring, I thee wed.”
“I apologize.”

And so on. Cool.

(Jan Sleet, in her language-loving heart, is just waiting for an opportunity to accuse a murderer with a performative sentence. 🙂 )


I just saw this film, and I enjoyed it a lot. You think it’s going to be a typical indie relationship drama with a bunch of friends brought together for a dinner where all their secrets and grudges will come out, which it sort of is, but there’s also this comet…

Even in this age of high-budget CGI-based science fiction, you can make a really effective science fiction picture with

  • Almost no budget
  • Eight actors
  • Five days
  • No sets (the director shot it in his own house)
  • No script (the entire movie was improvised, based on a very detailed plan which the actors didn’t know — each day the actors got minimal notes, and none of them knew which notes the other actors got)
  • Two cameras
  • A minimal crew
  • A very smart idea

It also has a complete awareness of the genre tropes that it’s playing with. At one point, in an inexplicable situation, the characters find a science book (which very improbably just happens to be in the back seat of a car). But this is no deus ex machina info dump — the characters think the book will help them (they’ve all seen the movies, too), but it’s really absolutely useless. They don’t figure this out, but it becomes obvious to the audience.

At one point the characters are going to split up, and one protests that that’s always a terrible idea. Another character says, “We’re not splitting up, we’re just going in two separate groups.” Which is, of course hilarious, and even more so when in the commentary track the actor says that when he said the line, in character, it seemed completely sensible.

A smart film, a puzzle that rewards repeated watching.

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2 Responses to performative statements, and coherence

  1. Pingback: two thoughts about ex machina (big spoilers) » Anthony Lee Collins

  2. Pingback: in which i read some blog posts from 2015 » Anthony Lee Collins

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