Tuesday, March 29, 2016

decades worth of thank-you

the five-foot assassin
the five-footer
the funky diabetic

...them can't touch me, no them can't touch me
them can't hold me, no them can't hold me...

Monday, March 14, 2016

"Insult her...

...If she's a tramp, she'll get angry. If she smiles, she's a lady."


Thursday, March 3, 2016

"eat it, you stinking pig"

“Wide Streets + Narrow Minds”:

Memory, Margins, and Mayhem in the Suburbs of Jonathan Kaplan’s Over the Edge

There is a reason that human beings long for a sense of permanence. This longing is not limited to children, for it touches the profoundest aspects of our existence: that life is short, fraught with uncertainty, and sometimes tragic. We know not where we come from, still less where we are going, and to keep from going crazy while we are here, we want to feel that we truly belong to a specific part of the world.
                                                                        The Geography of Nowhere
                                                                        —James Howard Kunstler

Two young teenagers are standing on a highway overpass. One is the stereotypical 1970s “burnout” embodied—long hair, bell-bottom jeans, and a matching jean jacket. The other does not fit this description. In addition to this latter teen’s cut-off denim shorts, he has short hair, he is donning a green military vest, and he is wearing—perhaps tellingly—a Daniel Boone-like coonskin cap (complete with tail). The teen in the coonskin cap is taking aim at automobiles with a bee-bee rifle as they drive under the overpass. He gets his sights locked on to a police car that is about to drive under the overpass. The teen fires the bee-bee rifle, the cop’s windshield shatters, and the police car skids sideways blocking the two lanes on that side of the highway. The monotonous diegetic tranquility of the sound of passing cars is shattered by the non-diegetic Helter Skelter-like guitar that begins Cheap Trick’s rock and roll battle hymn, Hello There, as the two teens start jumping up and down and laughing and yelling (similar to the kind of yells of Indians in battle) before they run to their bicycles and flee the scene of the Interstate assault. On the highway below traffic is stopped behind the sideways cop car with the shattered windshield, people are out of their cars and hiding behind their car doors, and the cop has his gun out and he is calling in the assault on his radio. Welcome to the anomic teenage anarchy of Jonathan Kaplan’s cinematic “cult classic,” Over the Edge (1979).

Over the Edge is the story of Carl Willat (Michael Eric Kramer). Carl is a young, intelligent, considerate teen who lives in an expensive, new suburban house (so new that it is younger than he is), whose loving parents are seemingly happily married (although his father has a cocktail in his hand in every scene in said house and his mother’s response to Carl’s having been beaten up at one point is to simply offer him money—“combat pay”), and lives in a predominately affluent “planned” suburban community named New Granada—“tomorrow’s city…today.” Over the Edge is also very much about the city of New Granada. And to be more specific, Over the Edge is about New Granada’s “teen problem.” As the prologue to the film states, Over the Edge “is based on true incidents occurring during the 1970s in a planned suburban community of condominiums and townhomes, where city planners ignored the fact that a quarter of the population was fifteen years old or younger.” Carl also has a number of close and faithful friends. There is Richie (Matt Dillon), a reputed troublemaker who allegedly “had to leave the last town he lived in,” and who repeatedly tells Carl and others about the time he broke into a bike shop and the cops made his mother “sign this thing saying that [he] was incorrectible”—which Carl repeatedly reminds him is actually “incorrigible.” There is Claude (Tom Fergus), who to prepare for a test in school one day accidently takes acid when he thinks he is merely taking speed, and who also at one point gets busted with “a gram of hash” by the city’s overzealous police sergeant, Sergeant Doberman (Harry Northup). And finally there is Cory (Pamela Ludwig) who eventually becomes Carl’s girlfriend, and who smokes a lot of weed, burglarizes houses, and is rumored to have run away with a rock group the year before the story takes place. The plot of the film is easy enough to summarize—it is the story of the aforementioned teens and some of their friends trapped in an alienating and demoralizing landscape, who are completely estranged from all adults in the story (except for Julia [Julia Pomeroy] who runs the teens’ “recreation center”), doing drugs, drinking alcohol, breaking and entering, getting arrested, fighting, and vandalizing the environment within which they are confined. The general theme of social and familial crisis in the film follows a clearly escalating trajectory and finally culminates in the legendary penultimate scene when all of the city’s teens lock the city’s parents, teachers, and police in the school (ironically the adults are meeting to discuss Richie’s death and the city’s “teen problem”) and then proceed to destroy the school and blow up all of the automobiles in the school’s parking lot.

Lamentably, virtually nothing has been written about this film, and in academia it has been all but ignored. The film was buried by Orion Pictures upon completion due to the drugs, violence, and anarchy depicted in it, and at least partly due to the fact that there had recently been teen violence outside of theatres at showings of gang films such as Walter Hill’s The Warriors (1979). It has been suggested by members of the film’s crew that American audiences simply were not yet prepared to see white suburban teens in affluent suburban communities behaving this way—this kind of behavior is assumedly only supposed to be that of minority youths in urban centers. Fatuously enough, in its attempts to figure out what to do with the film, Orion actually tried to bill Over the Edge as a horror film for a while, complete with posters depicting the kids in the film as zombies basically (blank, red eyes and everything) before completely burying the film outright. It ended up playing in one or two theatres. The film was eventually unearthed, made it to cable in the mid to late 1980s, then made it to DVD finally and has now reached “cult classic” status.

On the film’s thirtieth anniversary Vice magazine published a fairly comprehensive article about the film’s conception, production, and reception accompanied by the subtitle: “AN ORAL HISTORY OF THE GREATEST TEEN REBELLION MOVIE OF ALL TIME.” Though the author of this essay initially cringes at even the suggestion of employing anything from a trite, predictably jaded, hipster rag like Vice, the fact that the article is comprised wholly of commentary from the cast and crew will—hopefully—provide sufficient justification. Beyond providing an invaluable recourse for the regrettable dearth of scholarly and critical material on such an undeniably relevant and telling cinematic representation of teenage anomie—occurring in by far the most pervasive landscape in the United States (the suburban landscape)—the Vice article is useful for two main reasons. First, as stated above, it is an oral history so it provides plenty of illuminating commentary from the cast and—perhaps more importantly—crew as to why, where, and how the film was made. And second, the Vice article is woven together by excerpts from the original article from the San Francisco Examiner chronicling the true events on which Over the Edge is based. The original article was published in the November 11th, 1973 edition of the San Francisco Examiner. Entitled “Mousepacks: Kids on a Crime Spree,” the article begins by describing how

Gangs of youngsters, some as young as nine, [went] on a rampage through a suburban town. One on a bike pours gasoline from a gallon can and sets it afire. Lead pipe bombs explode in park restrooms. Spray paint and obscenities smear a shopping center wall. Two homes are set ablaze. Antennas by the hundreds are snapped off parked cars in a single night. Liquid cement clogs public sinks and water fountains. Streetlights are snuffed out with BB guns so often they are no longer replaced. It sounds like the scenario for an underage Clockwork Orange, a futuristic nightmare fantasy. But all the incidents are true. They happened in Foster City where pre-teenage gangs…constitute one of the city’s major crime problems. (qtd. in Sacks)

As will be explored in detail below, one of the key elements of both the film and the events that occurred in Foster City is the isolation and alienation inherent in the planned, standardized suburban landscapes within which these young people are trapped and confined. Landscapes that “radical geographer” James Howard Kunstler identifies as having “dispensed with all the traditional connections and continuities of community life, and replaced them with little more than cars and television” (105). Since adolescents and young teens who are not old enough to drive are the human beings who are quite literally trapped, isolated, and confined within these suburban wildernesses, who better to look to for the most genuine and unambiguous barometer of what these landscapes and environments do to the human mind and spirit?

Jonathan Kaplan’s city of New Granada in Over the Edge is a lucid filmic representation of the kind of center-less, centrifugally sprawling, haphazard suburban and exurban development that pervades this country’s landscape. “In these new, exploding suburbs,” environmental psychologist Ann Sloan Devlin quotes David Brooks as explaining in What Americans Build and Why, “the geography, the very landscape of life, is new and unparalleled…there are no centers [and] no recognizable borders to shape a sense of geographical identity. Throughout human history, most people have lived around some definable place—a tribal ring, an oasis, a river junction, a port, a town square” (24). This is increasingly no longer the case. Due to this stereotypical kind of manic and relentless suburban development, the entire landscape of the city of New Granada—“tomorrow’s city…today” as one of the city’s numerous signs advertises—is defined by utter inconstancy, plasticity, and discontinuity. In this sense, New Granada can be seen to be a spatial and geographical embodiment of the very anarchism that the kids’ behavior—perhaps fittingly and inevitably—reflects. Punctuating and mediating the utter standardization and homogeneity of the different patches and tracts of finished houses, townhouses, and condominiums in the landscape of Over the Edge, are unfinished expanses and spaces of land in varying phases and degrees of development. These are generally large fields of dirt and weeds where development has begun but is either unfinished or halted altogether (as Carl tells Cory at one point in the story, “my father says they’re out of money”). In Kaplan’s suburban landscape one finds three primary elements that can be considered conducive—if not downright deterministic—to the kind of anomic and nihilistic angst that leads to the teens’ anarchistic behavior. First, there is the standardized and homogeneous nature of the finished tracts and—dare I say—neighborhoods. These are built environments that are marked by a disorienting “placelessness,” and that lack structures and spaces embedded with any kind of symbolic or historical significance. Second, there is the haphazard, piecemeal, effectively anarchistic nature of the development in New Granada, where the “boundaries” that pioneering landscape critic John Brinckerhoff Jackson insists are essential to a sense of human community and civilization are obliterated and obscured. Finally, there is the fact that a landscape full of spaces and structures that are younger than the kids themselves is a landscape that does not provide young people with any sense of history, tradition, and memory. After first taking a brief look at the significance of landscape in the cinematic medium (beyond some attention to the landscapes in the genre of the American western, this is an area of study that is for the most part yet to be explored), the remainder of this paper will examine the three above elements of Kaplan’s brilliantly crafted and incendiary mise en scène.

In his seminal work Discovering the Vernacular Landscape John Brinckerhoff Jackson suggests that “in the contemporary movie…the set actually creates the players, identifies them, and tells them what to do: a good example of environmental determinism” (5). Over the Edge is an illustrative example of a film whose landscape does much more than merely provide a neutral background or setting. The film’s landscape and geography are a defining and perhaps even deterministic element of the story, embedded with as much meaning, agency, and influence as any character or situation. One particularly clever way in which Kaplan employs the landscape and geography to determine the destinies of the film’s characters, and also to foreshadow events is when he repeatedly has portentous and pivotal moments occur at the very edges where finished and unfinished development meet. For instance, perhaps the most pivotal moment of the story is when Carl and Richie first encounter the handgun that will ultimately get Richie fatally shot by Sergeant Doberman (when Richie points the unloaded handgun at Doberman later in the film as he and Carl are attempting to run away). Richie and Carl take the handgun from Cory and her friend Abby (Kim Kliner) after Cory and Abby have just burglarized a house. Kaplan has Carl and Richie ride up to Cory and Abby (who are literally just leaving the house they have burglarized), and Richie take the plastic grocery bag with the handgun in it from Abby at the exact spot that the sidewalk and the house’s meticulously manicured lawn end, and dirt and weeds begin. Likewise, later in the film, after the group has been “out in the fields” taking target practice, and the two pairs of friends are walking away from each other—Richie holding on to the now empty handgun—which will be the last time Cory and Abby will see Richie alive, the two pairs part ways at the exact place the concrete road ends and dirt and weeds begin.

One way to read this is to see the group’s leaving the sidewalk, manicured lawns, and concrete road as them leaving the order and security of human settlement and entering some kind of wilderness, or uncharted and untamed territory. This latter realm is where most (if not all) of the story’s most poignant moments take place, and where the story’s teenage characters seem to do their most visceral and genuine living. Contrastingly, in almost every scene in his parents’ house, Carl is in the insular and claustrophobic world provided by his headphones and record player listening to bands like Cheap Trick and The Ramones. Since New Granada’s chaotic and haphazard growth and development has created an anarchic landscape with no clear boundaries or points, spaces, or structures of centralizing or symbolic significance, the kids in Over the Edge must pass through these wild and chaotic spaces just to move throughout the story. J. B. Jackson identifies any landscape lacking boundaries as a fundamental debacle for human civilization. Jackson insists that boundaries “exist to ensure order and security and continuity and to give citizens a visible status.”

They serve to remind us of our rights and obligations and of our history….Boundaries therefore, unmistakable, permanent, inviolate boundaries, are essential….[They] stabilize social relationships. They make residents out of the homeless, neighbors out of strangers,  strangers out of enemies. They give a permanent human quality to what would otherwise be an amorphous stretch of land. Those roughly geometrical enclosed spaces are a way of rebuking the disorder and shapelessness of the natural environment… (12-15).

By creating a filmic suburban landscape with no clearly established boundaries, haphazardly punctuated by stretches of fields and stretches of unfinished and abandoned townhouses and condominiums, Kaplan has isolated and trapped the teens in Over the Edge in a suburban wilderness as chaotic as that in nature—and the teens’ anarchic behavior seems to simply reflect this. In fact, Kaplan establishes the suburban wilderness theme socially as well as spatially.

Perhaps the clearest manifestation of the suburban wilderness theme in the film can be found in Mark Perry (Vincent Spano)—the coonskin-hat-sporting, would-be frontiersman and revolutionary who carries out the aforementioned Interstate assault. In almost every scene in the film involving Mark Perry he is either shooting police cars from highway overpasses, brutalizing other teens in New Granada (at one point he and “that gorilla” he hangs out with beat up Carl as a warning against giving their names to the cops), and in general causing utter havoc in New Granada. Mark Perry’s bicycle has a gun-rack on the handlebars for his bee-bee rifle. One also finds out later in the film (after Richie has been killed and Carl is on the run) that Mark Perry is living in a tent out in one of the fields. In this sense Perry is in exile from the community of New Granada, and he appears to be the only character that freely (and without consequence) crosses the boundaries between the developed and undeveloped spaces in and around New Granada. Spatially he has been relegated to a similar wilderness to that which J. B. Jackson further explores when he writes of how the Romans created, defended, and maintained boundaries—or Limes—to “isolate and protect” the community or city, “and when possible to prevent contact” with who and what inhabited the mysterious and dangerous wilderness, or with conflicting political or militaristic forces. Perry can be seen to fit either of these categories, especially considering the subversive significance of the assault of a police car on an Interstate highway. The character of Mark Perry—in his Daniel Boone-like coonskin cap, military vest, combat boots, and armed with his bee-bee rifle (and ultimately with a real rifle which he gets out of the trunk of a cop car when the kids attack the school)—is a modern day cinematic representation of what historian Mark Bloch describes when he writes about the Middle Ages. Perry exists in the spaces outside of the tenuous order of New Granada; the spaces “Beyond [it], enveloping [it], thrusting into [it]—immense wilderness, seldom entirely uninhabited by man, though whoever dwelt there as a…hermit or outlaw did so only at the cost of a long separation from his fellow man” (qtd. in Jackson 50-51). Or in actor Vincent Spano’s own words, the “coonskin hat was my idea…It represented a time in America when people were living off the land. Fast-forward to the present, and these kids were plopped into a fabricated community and not really tied to the land at all. There was no place to go and nothing to do. It was bringing a symbol from the past into the present, and making it really perverted.” The haphazard development and construction in and around New Granada has already blurred the aforementioned boundaries (or Limes), which do not exist in any clear or significant way. But further exacerbating this, Kaplan uses the character of Mark Perry to obscure the already nebulous boundaries between the real wilderness around New Granada and—for the kids—the equally unwelcoming suburban wilderness of highways, strip-malls, and condominiums. The suggestion that the aspiringly utopistic landscape of America’s suburbs were—to the kids and teenagers trapped within them—as alienating, isolating, and treacherous as the natural wilderness, is perhaps one of the film’s most relevant historical implications and interventions.

As stated above, these patches of undeveloped and unfinished land mediate and punctuate patches of completed development that are marked by utter homogeneity. In one of the few scenes in Over the Edge where Carl actually vandalizes property himself we first see him wandering by himself on his bicycle through a subdivision of uncannily and eerily identical tan and brown townhouses. One wonders how someone could possibly find his or her way in such a place. “Texas millionaires” are in New Granada checking out the land across from the teens’ recreation center (or, “the rec,” a tin airplane hanger of a building surrounded by dirt, an old airplane, and some shoddy jungle gyms which is the only place the town has allotted for the teens to congregate)—land that was “supposed to be a drive-in and a bowling alley.” But as Carl’s dad admonishes Carl at one point after Carl has found out that this parcel of land is now going to be used to build an industrial park: “the city’s gotta make money on that property. Besides we need more of a reason for people to move here than the bowling alley.” The Texas millionaires are driving around in a Cadillac from Carl’s father’s Cadillac dealership. When they are in the townhouse they are being provided as they stay in New Granada, Carl puts a bunch of firecrackers in the engine that explode when the Texans get in the car later. The subdivision that Carl is riding through in this scene is the quintessence of the kind of disorienting standardization indicative of this country’s built environment, and an apt example of what seminal urbanist Jane Jacobs critiques in her invaluable tome, The Death and Life of Great American Cities. Though it is easy to assume that this kind of standardization provides a sense of order and predictability, and thus enhanced ease of maneuverability, Jacobs argues that its effects are quite the opposite. “Superficially, this monotony might be thought of as a sort of order,” Jacobs argues,

But esthetically, it unfortunately also carries with it a deep disorder: the disorder of conveying no direction. In places stamped with the monotony and repetition of sameness you move, but in moving you seem to have gotten nowhere. North is the same as south, or east as west. Sometimes north, south, east, west are all alike…It takes difference—many differences—cropping up in different directions to keep us oriented. Scenes of thoroughgoing sameness lack these natural announcements of direction and movement, or are scantly furnished with them, and so they are deeply confusing. This is a kind of chaos (my emphasis). (291-292)

The tracts of housing that are actually developed and occupied throughout Kaplan’s suburban landscape follow this exact paradigm—they are all identical colors, identical designs, made of identical materials, and dizzyingly enough, surrounded by identically manicured lawns and yards. Kaplan ingeniously highlights the rigidity and placelessness of this standardization to an even greater extent by sharply contrasting it with the weeds and dirt of all of the unfinished and undeveloped tracts that punctuate and mediate these finished and developed subdivisions. As James Howard Kunstler laments, this kind of mind numbing, discombobulating architecture and geography “represent[s] a triumph of mass merchandising over regional building traditions, of salesmanship over civilization” (166). These structures and the spaces they comprise “might be anywhere. The places they stand are just different versions of nowhere, because these houses exist in no specific relation to anything except the road and the power cable” (166).

The target practice that takes place in the scene of the “Sunday picnic with a gun” occurs on a dirt road, out on the undeveloped peripheries of New Granada. The entire background of the scene is comprised of a sprawling horizon of homogeneous suburban architecture and strip-malls. The scene begins with a slow tracking shot of Carl and Cory peacefully walking through a field of waist high grass. After Cory asks Carl if he would “like to live up here,” Carl tellingly answers that what he wants more than anything is “to live in a real old city.” This alludes to one of the defining and perhaps most deterministic elements of Kaplan’s suburban landscape—the fact that none of the spaces or structures have existed longer than the kids themselves. In this way, New Granada is emblematic of the modern American suburb, bereft as it is of any kind of history, tradition, or memory. Screenwriters Tim Hunter and Charles Haas went to the planned suburb of Foster City, California where the actual events of the “Mousepacks” article in the San Francisco Examiner took place. “Everything was new,” Haas explains in Vice’s oral history, “Nothing was older than the kids themselves. The place made everyone feel disposable.” Continuing in this vein, and with regards to the actual city of Greeley, Colorado where the film was shot, the film’s cinematographer Andrew Davis explains that the city of Greeley was “literally building this sprawling suburb around us as we shot Over the Edge. Houses were going up right next to where we were shooting."

James Howard Kunstler correspondingly laments, “Eighty percent of everything ever built in America has been built in the last fifty years” (10). New Granada represents but one microcosm of a land plagued by built environments that lack any kind of continuity with the past, and in this respect, few if any spaces or structures to bridge the generations. In the section entitled “Place as the Locus of Collective Memory,” from his tome Justice, Nature and the Geography of Difference “radical geographer” David Harvey provides an invaluable explication of the necessity for genuinely livable landscapes to possess and convey a sense of history, tradition, and memory. “Place is space which has historical meanings,” Harvey quotes Walter Brueggemann as arguing, “where some things have happened which are now remembered and which provide continuity and identity across generations” (304). New Granada’s lack of this necessity can be read as an explanation for the seemingly unbridgeable generational gulf between the kids and the adults, and for the kids’ consequently nihilistic and anomic abandon.

In addition to its inability to facilitate bridges between the generations, a landscape without a memory or history robs its inhabitants—especially those trapped and isolated within it like the film’s teens—of the foundational sense of both tradition and place on which to envision and create a future. Examining the sacred interconnectedness of the landscape with Apache history and cultural identity Harvey goes on to explain that North American Indians in general “engage in a moral act of imagination that constitutes an understanding of the physical world at the same time as it constitutes an understanding of themselves. From this it follows that losing the land is equivalent to losing identity” (305). This sense of a shared identity with the past provided by spaces and places embedded with a memory and history is indispensible as one moves towards a future. Or as Harvey goes on to explain, “memory of the past is also about hope for the future…the preservation or construction of a sense of place is then an active moment in the passage from memory to hope, from past to future” (305-306). In this regard, Carl’s aforementioned confession to Cory of wanting “to live in a real old city” is one of the most telling lines in the film. It is a desire for the feeling of belonging that comes with the collective memory and identity intrinsic to an “old,” firmly established site that possesses its own clearly and concretely established sense of place. Trapped in a brand new suburban wilderness (in fact, it is being built around them) bereft of any kind of memory or history, and lacking what Kunstler in the epigraph to this paper identifies as the indispensable knowledge “that [they] truly belong to a specific part of the world,” Carl and the rest of the teens in Over the Edge are existentially adrift and act accordingly. Or as Mary Gordon warns, “There is a link between hope and memory. Remembering nothing one cannot hope for anything” (qtd. in Harvey 305). In this respect it is quite fitting that director Jonathan Kaplan was coming from having just directed the fabled punk rock film Who Killed Bambi (1978) for the Sex Pistols—a band who coined the nihilistic anthem: “No future…no future for me!”
As Richie and his mother walk into the inner courtyard of the low-income suburban apartment complex in which they live, after his mother has had to retrieve him from the police who detained him and Carl for both a case of mistaken identity (when Mark Perry and his accomplice were fleeing on their bikes from their Interstate assault), and for a pocket-knife he was carrying (or simply for being poor in the suburbs), they walk past the following graffiti starkly spray-painted in white letters on one of the courtyard’s walls: “Wide Streets + Narrow Minds.” This little cleverly placed and easily missed protest concisely conveys the prominent and crucial spatial and geographical component of Over the Edge. Although Richie is not as far removed from the order and security of New Granada as Mark Perry is, Richie is nevertheless part of the poorer section. Kaplan illustrates Richie’s class status socially as well as spatially. As stated above, Richie’s single mother (who commiserates with what is clearly her son’s continuous harassment by the police) picks Richie up from the police station. “Well did they at least read you your rights,” she asks. “What rights? You kidding me?” Richie answers. To this, Richie’s mother laments: “I’d like to see them go after some real criminals sometime.” Carl on the other hand, is picked up by his father (Carl’s mom is at home being a good housewife), who has had to lie to people at his Cadillac dealership (by telling them that his silly wife has ignored a bunch of parking tickets) so nobody will know that Carl has been arrested. Unlike Richie, who lives in what is essentially high-rise housing projects for poor white people, Carl and his father pull into the driveway of a brand new house and right into a garage whose door automatically closes behind them.

Despite the marked differences in the familial and socioeconomic circumstances of Richie and Carl, Over the Edge ultimately illustrates that the power of the landscape—more times than not—has the capacity to effect anyone trapped or confined within it, whether they be rich or poor. In the preface to the second edition of Landscape and Power W. J. T. Mitchell writes, “If one wanted to continue to insist on power as the key to the significance of landscape, one would have to acknowledge that it is a relatively weak power compared to that of armies, police forces, governments, and corporations” (vii). This seems almost self-evident. But it also seems to perhaps underestimate an almost omnipotent power that landscape wields that is so constant, ubiquitous, and insidious that it is essentially invisible. As stated above, perhaps the key to understanding this power is to see it from the perspective of those who are utterly confined within these spaces and places—children. The formidable power of landscape effects young people in affluent, exurban gated communities as much as it effects young people in blighted urban centers. It is—for instance—the six-lane arterial roadway that a child from the former category must daily cross just to get to a friend’s neighborhood. This will often eventually convince this child not to bother leaving his or her own street (which probably does not have any sidewalks anyway), and in doing so, arrest the child’s development and maturation. It is the two miles a child (and many adults as well) in a distraught city like Detroit—for instance—must daily traverse just to get to where he or she can purchase food. Which will only then be corn chips and microwave burritos once they get there anyway, as gas stations and liquor stores are often all that he or she has access to for food. 

In this way, the power of the landscape can be seen as analogous to what Mahatma Gandhi was trying to convey when he suggested, “Poverty is the worst form of violence.” When one considers violence, one generally considers it to be some kind of act, with a beginning and end and thus some kind of duration. But what Gandhi suggests is that poverty is an act of violence that takes the instantiation of a single act with a limited duration and extends it indefinitely to the point where it simply becomes a condition of life, without a clear aggressor to confront. The power of landscape as suggested above takes on this same ontological perpetuity and ubiquity. It takes the instantiation of an act of oppression or coercion and stretches it out indefinitely. It is the cinematic representation of this form of ubiquitous, constant, and in a sense invisible power of the landscape that confines and isolates the teens in, and determines the events in Jonathan Kaplan’s Over the Edge.