Coursework 3: Dominant versus Counter Cinema

The vast majority of Hollywood film productions are considered to be mainstream for a number of reasons: they are produced on high budgets and will always target mass audiences; the cast will include well-known actors and film stars who generate publicity; they will guarantee a staggering commercial success and consequently produce millions of dollars in revenue.
The ‘Dominant cinema’ relies on a clear production system: a well-defined genre, at least a film star as part of the cast and the mass production of the film, producers and Hollywood studious seeking to fully exponentialize their material investment.

Just go with it’ (2011) is a classic example of the ‘Made in Hollywood’ film. Firstly, the plot is constructed in an easy-to-follow manner: A plastic surgeon (Danny Maccabee) who is romancing a much younger schoolteacher, enlists his assistant (Katherine) to pretend to be his soon to be ex-wife, in order to cover up a careless lie. Created as a pure ‘comedy’ the film fits a clear genre and furthermore, the protagonists are played by famous actors such as Jennifer Aniston and Adam Sandler.

Produced by Columbia Pictures and Happy Madison Productions on an estimated budget of $ 80.000.000, after almost 4 months ‘Just go with it’ had generated over $103,000,000 in the United States only.
Production-wise, the film didn’t put forward an outstanding mise-en-scene or editing, displaying fairly dull filmmaking techniques. The film was undoubtedly created for a global audience, trying to reach the masses of comedy lovers all around the world, with a focus on quantity rather than the quality of its content.

As a response to ‘mainstream’ filmmaking and its seven deadly sins, counter cinema can be praised for providing the seven opposing cardinal virtues. (Wollen 2002 p.74)
If mainstream filmmaking involves narrative transitivity, identification, transparency, single diegesis, closure, pleasure and fiction, counter cinema implies narrative intransitivity, estrangement, foregounding, multiple diegesis, aperture, un-pleasure and reality.

‘Never let me go’ is a 2010 British film based on Kazuo Ishiguro’s novel. Exploring the story of 3 young people, whose lives were created in a laboratory to supply severely ill patients with healthy organs, the plot reveals a disturbing depiction of human imprisonment and an unusual love triangle. Starring Carey Mulligan, Keira Knightley and Andrew Garfield, the narrative presents the childhood and adolescence of three friends who are unaware of their mission. The film treats an unpleasant theme and reflects to an extent the notion of ‘reality’, which makes the audience self-reflect and question the meaning of life.

Multiple diegesis: the story is depicted through short episodes that switch from ‘present’ to ‘past’ on a number of occasions; the narrative is not continuous because two worlds are created simultaneously: one created by others and one that protagonists want for themselves, fighting against rules and constraints. Flashbacks, changes of settings, an overlap of genres and messages, ‘Never let me go’ has them all. The movie could equally be a drama, a sci-fi and an alternate fiction.

The ending doesn’t provide happiness or triumph, but rather frustration and defeat. Protagonists can’t fight their fate, not even through love which is stereotypically invincible in mainstream cinema. Bradshaw (2010) argues that ‘Never let me go’ is ‘a muted story of submission to authority.’


BRADSHAW, P., 2010. Never Let Me Go: review. [online]. London: The Guardian. Available from: [Accessed 7 March 2012].

SIMON, C., 2009. Dominant versus Counter cinema. [online]. WordPress. Available from: [Accessed 6 March].

IMDb, 2012. Just go with it. [online]. IMDb. Available from: . [Accessed 7 March 2012].

IMDb, 2012. Never let me go. [online]. IMDb. Available from: [Accessed 7 March 2012].

WOLLEN, P., 1972. Goddard and counter cinema, in The European Cinema Reader, 2002. London: Routledge.

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