All posts by Pam

Pam Hassebroek is founder and editor-in-chief at Movies on My Mind. A passionate researcher in the field of communication, her broad focus is information security, countering cybercrime and terrorism, to which she contributes by studying communication in film. She earned MS and PhD degrees from Georgia Institute of Technology. Past positions include petroleum engineering and teaching.

Dr. Martin Luther: Persuader–and Not Simply a Humble German Monk

Filmed in Wiesbaden, West Germany, this month’s movie, Martin Luther (Pichel, 1953), received Oscar nominations in 1954 for Best Cinematography, Black and White, and Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, Black and White.

As one of the producers of this movie, the Lutheran Church in America’s presence suggests a protestant bias, although we expect an unbiased historical accounting from its statement as part of the credits at the beginning of the movie,

This dramatization of a decisive moment in human history is the result of careful research of facts and conditions in the 16th century as reported by historians of many faiths.

Martin Luther, Augustinian priest
Dr. Martin Luther, Augustinian Priest

Often described as “a humble German monk,” Dr. Martin Luther (1483 – 1546) was also a gifted scholar, having attained the highest level of university education. He served as Professor of Theology at the University of Wittenberg for his entire career, and as a Catholic Augustinian Priest until his excommunication by Pope Leo X in 1521. Continue reading Dr. Martin Luther: Persuader–and Not Simply a Humble German Monk

Are You Persuaded to Join the Herd?

Nothing can now be believed which is seen in a newspaper. Truth itself becomes suspicious by being put into that polluted vehicle.
Thomas Jefferson to John Norvell, 1807

Over the last several months, we have watched a number of movies that have served as catalysts for discussion on the topic of persuasion. Via Blossoms in the Dust (LeRoy, 1941), we learned about the work of Edna Gladney, and how major and lasting social change can come about through the activism of a passionate person acting alone. Most certainly that person acted within the context of her world at the time, thus one could argue that it was a village that produced the outcome (Clinton, & Feinman, 1996) or that the person didn’t really do it without help (Obama, 2012).

If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you’ve got a business – you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.

One may, of course, proclaim that same message for any positive human achievement since Adam and Eve; and, further, we are intensely aware that many powerful ideas and actions have come from within the ranks of people who have benefited from American citizenship. However, the same “unbelievable American system” has also produced scores of others who were not persuaded to take action to move humanity to a higher level. So, it seems that those achievements of some individuals involved something beyond that village or simply the American system. Continue reading Are You Persuaded to Join the Herd?

In Gaslight: Dependency and Secrecy

George Cukor carefully avoids the obvious effects in telling this story of a husband (Charles Boyer) attempting to drive his wife (Ingrid Bergman) insane; instead, this 1944 film is one of the few psychological thrillers that is genuinely psychological, depending on subtle clues  —a gesture, an intonation—to thought and character. Boyer and Bergman are superb, and Angela Lansbury makes her debut as a cunning cockney maid. It’s also one of the few films to expand the use of offscreen space, not simply to the sides of the frame, but to the areas above and below the image as well. With Joseph Cotten and Dame May Whitty.
—Dave Kehr, Chicago Reader

In this month’s  movie Gaslight (Cukor, 1944), Charles Boyer’s character, Gregory Anton, sets out to enact a well-planned strategy of deceit, in order to gain the possessions of a famous opera singer. He almost succeeds because his wife, Paula, is such an easy victim of his treachery. Her vulnerability comes from being a female ingenue, having grown up in the opera singer’s (i.e., her aunt’s) London household.

Continue reading In Gaslight: Dependency and Secrecy

Propaganda, Mind Control, and Engineering Public Opinion

Mind control is an interesting concept. This terminology most often conjures up notions of intrigue, sci-fi, destructive cults, MK Ultra, and maybe thoughts of Jason Bourne. In describing Patty Hearst at her trial, her defense team highlighted Hearst’s terror and the abuses of her captivity, suggesting that she may have been drugged into a “disordered and frightened” state. The idea that many believe about her circumstance is that she was brainwashed, “also known as coercive persuasion or manipulative thought reform” (Morabito, 2014, Apr 15), and developed what is known as “Stockholm syndrome,” a mind condition where she unconsciously abandoned her own prior belief systems and took on the mindset of her captors (Jameson, 2010).

What does it mean to be brainwashed? Continue reading Propaganda, Mind Control, and Engineering Public Opinion

The Use of Images in Persuasion: Miracles and Magic in Montage

Now and then, we must re-visit our history to know what we’ve gained in our progression of movie-watching. When we began our film exploration in January 2010, it was simply that, an exploration. However, even then, we looked at films that revealed important ways in which the movie and the spectator interact to construct their stories and to reveal their biases.

Since then, that exploration has evolved into a somewhat more systematic treatment of our focus of study. Through the use of themes and the occasional “film on film,” we are developing a better vocabulary for talking about our movies, and a better understanding of various aspects of film communication. Continue reading The Use of Images in Persuasion: Miracles and Magic in Montage

Impassioned Speeches: Edna Gladney and Meryl Streep

Those of us who watched the Golden Globe Awards this week, or heard about the event after the fact, know that in accepting the Cecil B. DeMille Award, Meryl Streep gave an impassioned speech. Without naming names, most likely everyone in the world knew the context and the individual about whom she spoke.

But there was one performance this year that stunned me. It sank its hooks in my heart. Not because it was good; there was nothing good about it. But it was effective and it did its job. It made its intended audience laugh, and show their teeth. Continue reading Impassioned Speeches: Edna Gladney and Meryl Streep