What do ‘Slumdog Millionaire’, ‘Sex and the City 2’ and ‘The Ring’ all have in common? You wouldn’t pick it, but they are all examples of a new practice called ‘Crossover Cinema’.
Within the study of film, industries in the past have kept their cultural traits within the realms of their national borders, however, within the last decade, there has been an increasing volume of cultural crossovers with film with some countries adopting the characteristics of other cultures. The term ‘Crossover Cinema’ is used to describe an emerging form of cinema that has undertaken the process of crossing cultural borders during the stage of production, distribution and reception, drawing on a range of universal themes and techniques (Khorana, 2013).
The 2002 movie entitled ‘The Ring’ is commonly known as the American production which you shouldn’t watch without a friend, a light or a blanket to hind behind. However, did you know it was a remake of a Japanese film called ‘Ringu’? Hollywood has frequently derived the film plots of other countries and adapted them to fit their own culture. When the Western film industry adopted the storyline and characteristics of Ringu, it is only expected that this crossover be enriched with Japanese culture. It is then that us as Western audiences perceive the storyline differently from Japanese audiences as we are unaware of the Japanese influences that infiltrate the film.
For example, fans of the movie may not realize that Samara’s appearance is actually drawing from a long history of Japanese ghosts. More specifically, she shares many characteristics with yuurei ghosts which are typically women with a white face, long black hair, and a long white kimono. Culturally, this is how Japanese women looked when they were buried. While they were living, Japanese women wore their hair tied up but it was let down when they died (Chris, 2006).
In particular, the story of yuurei ghost Okiku tells the story of a samurai who tried to seduce her, but she rejected his advances. Enraged, he killed her and threw her into a water well (Chris, 2006). For those who have seen the movie, they would recognize that this legend clearly parallels with the plot of the movie, illustrating how us as western audiences fail to recognize these Japanese customs.
Water and damp settings is a major theme within ‘The Ring’. While it has no real cultural connection to us, the Japanese tend to associate spirits and death with water (Chris, 2006). Throughout The Ring, water is continually connected to the deaths of victims such as: water seeping under the bedroom door, getting electrocuted in the bathtub, horses drowning themselves. If ‘The Ring’ was originally the work of Westernised cultures, we would most likely connect death to dry, musty locations such as mansions, basements or cemeteries as we have seen in so many Hollywood movies before.
Within these crossover films, Western industries that adopt Eastern films often don’t recognise the cultural elements within them. Whilst these films are intended to appeal to western culture, some aspects of Eastern culture can still remain. Due to this cinema crossover, these characteristics are unrecognisable as we are unaware of the pre-existing beliefs that are entrenched within them.
– Khorana, S 2013, ‘Crossover Cinema: Cross-Cultural Film from Production to Reception’, Crossover Cinema: A Genealogical and Conceptual Overview, Routledge, New York, viewed 08/10/214, <http://ro.uow.edu.au/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=2020&context=lhapapers>
– Chris 2006, ‘Chris’ Survival Horror Quest’, Guide to Understanding Japanese Horror, dreamdawn.com, viewed 08/10/14, <http://www.dreamdawn.com/sh/features/japanese_horror.php>