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The Emotions of Happiness and Sadness in Foreign Cultures and Films

Info: 8070 words (32 pages) Dissertation
Published: 9th Dec 2019

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Tagged: Cultural StudiesPsychology

When I chose my Capstone project, I picked a topic that was very broad.  I found this out as I began to research my project and after talking with my mentor.  As I began my research I have found it necessary to focus in on some of the finer points of my project, thus narrowing it down somewhat.  I also began to realize that some of the pitfalls with my project are that the subject matter in many cases is very subjective.  My original proposal was to represent and analyze culture and emotional expression in film from three different countries.  I will focus on two basic emotions of happiness and sadness in films produced in two countries instead of three, and how these emotions are influenced by the cultures represented in these two countries.  To start off I will begin with some background information on the physiology and psychology of emotion.

Neuroscientists have found that the brain does not manage emotions in just one single area.  Rather they have found that different brain networks in different areas of the brain combine to create emotions, thoughts, and perceptions. They have begun to realize that there are multiple emotional centers of activity.  Emotions such as happiness and sadness, being opposite emotions are not considered that way in the brain itself.  One neuroscientist said:

It’s because happiness and sadness involve separate brain areas that we can have bittersweet moments, like when a child is leaving home for college and you’re sad, but happy, too, (Dr. Mark George, a psychiatrist and neurologist at the National Institute of Mental Health in Bethesda, Md.) (Goleman, 1995).

Dr. Mark George found that in subjects he tested using brain imagery (usually today fMRI or functional resonance magnetic imaging is used), when his subject felt happy there was a decrease in activity in the areas of the cerebral cortex.  These areas are those that concentrate on planning and thinking ahead.  His test subjects experiencing sadness saw areas of the amygdala, structures in the limbic system that are a cluster of nerve cells, active during this emotion and also other types of emotional experiences.  The amygdalae sit on either side of the brain under the temporal lobe and act as a network control center.  These studies are all helping to show how emotions are triggered in the human brain and the theories relating to this are continually changing as new information is gathered and identified.  For all humans the process would be similar unless there are deviations or changes in the physiology of the person’s brain.  Therefore, the study of the psychology of emotions is needed to help us understand why people exhibit similar emotions differently.  Scientists and psychologists have spent years trying to understand human behavior and human emotions.  They are still learning new information all the time, which is helping us to understand human behavior and why people are happy and/or sad.  How humans exhibit these emotions is very dependent on the individuals themselves and the culture in which they have spent most of their formative years.  Aristotle believed that emotions came from the heart; so much has changed since his time.

While researching the neuroscience of emotions it has become quite apparent that understanding how and where emotions are processed in the brain is a very difficult task.  Richard J. Davidson a neuroscientist at the University of Madison, Wisconsin observed, “individuals react in different ways to different emotional stimuli” and that “the idea that our brain biology (genetically inherited or otherwise) gives us a predisposition to certain types of mood (or “affective style”) and environmental stresses interact with this to make each of us react with the unique emotions that we do” (Woodford, 2016).  “An emotion is a psychological state or process that mediates between our concerns (or goals) and events of our world”(Keltner, Oatley, & Jenkins 2014).  Darwin believed that our emotions came from habits that were beneficial to us in our evolutionary or personal past.

Emotions are believed by some to help us adapt to the world around us and are specific to the current context, which elicits their response.  They are also believed by some to be derived from the source of our values, which often times are the result of our cultural influences (making up who we are, what we believe, what is important to us, and how this helps us to relate to other people).  Most emotions are a result of our interactions with other people, in other words they involve other people.  It is thought that as humans evolved and interacted with other people, emotions were one of the results of this interaction.  Therefore, they are actually the result of social interaction, which enhances our social lives.  Certain situations elicit responses of happiness and other situations elicit responses of sadness, just to name a few of the multitude of emotions that any one individual can exhibit at any one time.  It is thought that when a source that triggers a response of happiness is taken away the resulting response is sadness.  Key factors that seem to play a large part in the emotions of happiness and sadness are evolution and the resulting culture from which any specific individual has been exposed to from and early age.

There are many theories about how emotions have originated.  I will describe some of them briefly and the actual theory that will one day prevail will probably be a combination of one, two, or more of these theories.  It is believed that an emotion is a type of affect, which involves two processes.  The first process involves the perception of a stimulus which when perceived and processed by the individual elicits a bodily response.  The response could be any number of things, such as an increased heart rate, some kind of facial expression, or even a verbal response.  The stimulus itself can be external or internal (a belief or memory that has been triggered).  It takes only seconds to evaluate the stimulus by the individual and to have some kind of a response (Johnson, n.d.).  Two emotional responses can be either happiness or sadness.  The theories that have evolved on how emotions have originated are varied and I will only briefly describe them.  The first ones I will explain briefly are the Evolutionary based theories.

The Evolutionary based theories treat emotions as adaptations that have evolved over time.  “As Dacher Keltner et al. has stated, “Emotions have the hallmarks of adaptations: They are efficient, coordinated responses that help organisms to reproduce, to protect offspring, to maintain cooperative alliances, and to avoid physical threats” (Keltner, Haidt, & Shiota, 2006, p. 117).” (Johnson, n.d.).  The theories of interest are the ones suggesting that emotions are based on “natural selection”, adaptations shared by animals, or are historical in nature. (Johnson, n.d.)  The Evolutionary theories are based on the fact that emotions evolved over time and the beneficial emotions were selected and retained.

These theories are derived from the idea “that this selection occurred in response to problems that arose because of the social environment in which these organisms lived” (Tooby & Cosmides, 1990; Cosmides & Tooby, 2000; Nesse, 1990; Keltner et al., 2006) (Johnson, n.d.).  The process began more than 150,000 years ago and continued as Homo sapiens appeared on the Earth (Wood & Collard, 1999; Wood, 1996) (Johnson, n.d.).  Another theory suggests that emotions are adaptations that are shared by all animals.  “Robert Plutchik claims that there are eight basic emotions, each one is an adaptation, and all eight are found in all organisms” (1980, 1984) (Johnson, n.d.).  The theories that are historical in nature try to identify traits and emotions that are present in a range of species because of shared ancestry.

Other theories are social and cultural theories and are based on the idea that emotions are the products of societies and cultures, and are developed over time by individuals.  They are developed dependent on the personal experiences of the individuals and are a result of what will make the individual more successful in their society or culture.  Anthropological studies have found that there are certain emotions in certain cultures that are not found in other cultures.  This indicates that the emotion is individual to that society or culture.  An example is that “the Japanese have the emotion amae, which is a feeling of dependency upon another’s love. This is similar to the feeling that children have towards their mothers, but it is experienced by adults. (Morsbach & Tyler, 1986).” (Johnson, n.d.).  Another basis for the social and cultural theories is that emotions are “interactions between people, rather than simply as one individual’s response to a particular stimulus (Parkinson, 1996).” (Johnson, n.d.).  Also, emotions and how they are expressed are somewhat controlled by social norms, values, and expectations of the society into which they are found.

The process where an emotion is actually elicited is thought to be either a cognitive process or non-cognitive process.  The cognitive theories are based on the belief that the person recognizes the stimulus and then evaluates it.  This process is very fast and the resultant emotion will be determined by how the stimulus is processed by any particular individual.  Therefore, the individual has to process the information first and then react based on how they perceived the stimulus.  The non-cognitive theories are based on the idea that the beginning part of the emotion process is more of a reflex than any form of actually mentally processing the information given by the stimulus.  As can be seen by the information presented so far on the physiology, psychology, and philosophy of emotion it is a very complex topic.  I am just trying to give a little bit of background information in order to make sense of the differences in the emotions of happiness and sadness as portrayed in a few films from two distinct cultures.  These cultures are Japan and Sweden and will be reviewed next.  As presented earlier I believe that emotions are affected by the individual make up of each person of which culture is a very important part.

Japan’s culture will be better understood if we first look at a brief history of Japan.  Though today Japan is a large technologically advanced country it has grown from its early beginnings as a Neolithic civilization (11th century B.C.E.-300 B.C.E.).  This was called the Jomon culture, which was noted for its rope patterns found on pottery made back during this time.  These people were a group of hunters and gatherers.  It wasn’t until the Yayoi period (300 B.C.E.-250 C.E.) that the peoples of what is now Japan became a rice producing culture.  Their agricultural techniques for irrigation, planting, and harvesting are still in use today.  The next period was known as the Tomb period (250 C.E.- 552 C.E.) for the numerous tombs that have been found across the landscape of Japan.  The first writings about Japan mention Japan as the Land of Wa and an unmarried woman who was occupied with magic and sorcery ruled it (“Early History and Culture”, 2008).

It wasn’t until the times of Yamato (552 C.E. – 710 C.E.) that the numerous clans found throughout the country were finally unified under one clan.  The Yamato believed it was their destiny to protect their nation of peoples.   The end of this period saw the country being ruled by a Buddhist follower named Prince Shotoku (573 C.E. – 622 C.E.).  It was the “first centralized government and constitution that followed Confucian models” (“Early History and Culture”, 2008).

It was during this time that the country was greatly impacted by both China and Buddhism.  A system for writing was developed, during this period, to express the Japanese language.  The periods of Yamato and Nara, where the capital was located, ended when the capital was moved to Kyoto.  This marked the beginning of the Heian period (794 C.E. – 1185 C.E.).  The lax rule of the aristocratic government that followed was beneficial to the culture and arts that boomed during this period.  The aristocrats of this time did much to influence the Japanese etiquette and the arts.  An example of which is “mono no aware, “the fleeting nature of things,” even as they make merry and watch cherry blossoms scatter in the breeze” (“Early History and Culture”, 2008).  The aristocratic rule ended and Japan went into what was called a “Warring States” period, which was during c.1400-1600.

During this period the people who ruled the country were those who were the strongest militarily.   The samurai warriors, who were also known as “bushi”, had a strict code of honor and discipline.  They would give their lives for their lords or masters to whom they had sworn to protect.  In return they received financial security and social status.  To not honor their commitment to their lord or master would be a huge disgrace for the warrior.  Samurai warriors were sometimes torn between their lord and daimyos (barons).  The daimyo reported to a shogun, who was the dominant feudal lord, out of political necessity.  The shogun then was bestowed upon with honors from the emperor.  This all led to shogunal rule of the bakufu or tent government.  The Kamakura bakufu defeated the Mongol invaders between 1185 and 1133.  The Muromachi bakufu led by the Ashikaga shogun brought back the cultural arts and many cultural achievements happened during his time.  Next, came Oda Nobunaga (1534-1582) who tried to unify all the power, and it was during this period that Europeans begun to enter Japan.  Many years followed of power struggles between different factions until Tokugawa Ieyasu (1542 – 1616) who was established in what is today Tokyo, governed the land.

Many years of peace followed and the arts flourished.  This diverse history of Japan has all contributed to the way the Japanese are perceived in the world.  The feuding factions, the emergence of strong shoguns and emperors, samurai warriors, the rise of martial arts, and the closeness of the peoples in this country to one another have led to a “collectivistic” culture.

“Collectivistic cultures are said to promote the interdependence of individuals and the notion of social harmony.  Indeed, Niedenthal suggests that “The needs, wishes, and desires of the collectives in which individuals find themselves are emphasized, and the notion of individuality is minimized or even absent from the cultural mode.”(“Emotions and Cultures”, n.d.)  According to some researchers the emotions of the Japanese people reflect the larger group and cannot easily be separated from the inner self.  Therefore, the expression of emotions is often discouraged because individual emotions do not always benefit the larger group.  Discouraging the expression of individual emotions is considered mature and appropriate for the success of the larger group.  Maintaining social harmony is the main goal and expressing emotions could upset social harmony.  After going over a brief history of Japan it becomes apparent that they can be fiercely loyal to their masters or leaders, as shown by the samurai warriors, and they have a strong belief in honor and loyalty.  Their religion of Buddhism also reinforces a strong inner self and discipline, which contributes to being loyal and steadfast to the whole.

The history of Japan, including its’ religions has greatly influenced the culture of this country.  It is a collectivistic society and this is partially due to the influence of certain religions on the country.  Shinto, one of the earliest religions was based on a deep connection with nature and the universe.  It stressed purity and cleanliness.  Buddhism, which originated in India, was introduced to Japan from Korea back in the sixth century.  This religion focused on suffering being the cause of obsession with the “self”.   This religion flourished and spread throughout Japan.  Confucianism was introduced from China and dealt with man’s relationship with his fellow men.  This relationship was important to maintain social and political order.  Japan, as I have noted earlier is a collectivistic society in which all the people need to be considered at any one time and not focused on the “self”.  This is reflected in the movie the “Seven Samurai” by not only what is said but also how the people in the movie express happiness and sadness.

The Japanese film that I chose to show how the Japanese people display their emotions of happiness and sadness in film is the “Seven Samurai”.  This film takes place in 1586, and as I have already mentioned the samurai were a large part of Japanese history and contributed to the culture of Japan.  It is this culture that has played a big part in how Japanese people express the emotions of happiness and sadness.  The director and primary writer of “Seven Samurai” is Akira Kurosawa of Japan and “Seven Samurai” was filmed in 1954.  The film itself is set during the Sengoku period, which lasted from the end of the twelfth century to the end of the sixteenth century.  This period was also known as the period of the “Country at War” or “Warring States Period”.  There were different warring factions all across Japan led by feudal lords and “daimyos” (barons). At times these wars became very brutal, being fought by the samurai for their feudal lord.  Many feudal lords died during these battles and their castles and fiefdoms were destroyed.  This left the samurai, at times, without a feudal lord to be loyal to, honor, and serve without thought to themselves or their lives.  It also meant that they now would not be rewarded or be provided with what they needed to survive.  Therefore, this left the samurai alone to determine their own fate.  These samurai without lords were known as ronin, and some became bandits and some decided to take a more honorable path.  The latter were the “Seven Samurai” as depicted in the film.

Akira Kurosawa who wrote and directed the screenplay for this film was born on March 23, 1910 in Oimachi, Tokyo and died on September 6, 1998.  He is considered to be one of the most influential filmmakers in the history of cinema (Sato, 2018).  He was a painter before becoming a screenwriter in 1936.  During his 57-year career he produced 30 films and was awarded the Academy Award for Life Achievement in 1990.  After he had died he was awarded the “Asian of the Century” in the “Arts, Literature, and Culture” category by the Asian Week Magazine and CNN.  His father was a former samurai and worked as the director of the Army’s Physical Education Institute’s lower secondary school.  Akira studied both calligraphy and Kendo swordsmanship when he was in elementary school.  In 1935 he was hired as an assistant director for Photo Chemical Laboratories and was greatly influenced by the film director Yamamoto (Sato, 2018).  They worked on many films together and the production of “Horse” in 1941, which he mostly directed by himself, led him to continue in film production.  He had been given valuable advice from this well-known director, which helped him throughout his career.  His debut film, which he directed, was based on the novel “Sanshiro Sugata” which was a success, despite being censored in certain areas.  “Seven Samurai” was filmed many years later and it was this genre of film for which he became most famous.  The main focus of this film is the farmers and the seven samurai who try to protect them from the bandits.  The bandits come, each year, right after the farmers have harvested their crops so they can take all of it for themselves.  The farmers are a different class that works hard and takes care of each other.  They don’t have much and they need the food they grow in order to survive the winters.  The samurai are a very proud and honorable people as are the farmers and so they decide to try to help the farmers.  During this movie you can witness how the Japanese culture is portrayed and how this culture influences the people and how they express the emotions of happiness and sadness.  Some of the actors and characters are more demonstrative in their representation of their emotions, but this is a way of making the movie a little more lively and entertaining.  The overall impression that is very consistent and present is the way the Japanese people in the film work and live together as a whole.  Everything that is done and said is for the good of the whole community.

In the movie “Seven Samurai” the farmers in this small village are all very nervous about the bandits coming to cause a lot of harm and destruction after they take their harvest.  This motivates them to come together as a community to decide what to do about this, since they will not be able to survive another attack and loss of crops.  They have to decide this together and their sadness for what they feel the future will bring and what the past has already brought, is based on a concern for all of the people of the village.  They are sad for all of them and not just themselves individually.  When they express emotions of happiness it is in regards to all of them, again not just one person.  You can notice in the film how sometimes a person will look around to seek approval of the whole, before speaking or acting.  The samurai also are not thinking of themselves but of how they can help each other and the whole village.  They join in and are happy for the village people if things are going well, and also share their sadness.  There are quite a few quotes in the movie that represent this collective society such as “If you think of yourself, you will destroy yourself”, “Protecting others will save yourself”, and “Live and act as one squad” (Kurosawa, 1954).  If you think of the whole group and not just yourself you can obtain your goals for the whole and that brings happiness.  The expressions of happiness that were displayed throughout the movie are not huge displays or loud displays, unless it was in a scene where there was a lot of drinking.  The expressions on the faces of the characters especially the samurai were very subtle and reserved.  The farmers seemed to look to other people for approval before expressing any outward emotion of happiness and sadness.  However, they did show emotions of happiness when the bandits were beaten, and sadness when one of their own died in the battle.  They did this as a whole, they were happy together and sad together.

“The Japanese movie continues to show…the most perfect reflection of a people in the history of world cinema…If the American film is strongest in action and if the European is strongest in character, then the Japanese film is strongest in mood and atmosphere, in presenting people in their own context, characters in their own surroundings.  It reflects the oneness with nature which constitutes both the triumph and the escape of the Japanese people” (Hane & Hane, 1986).  Akira Kurosawa was one director that brought about the triumph of cinema as an important art form.  The Japanese culture and history is different than that of Sweden the other country that I will be looking at in this paper.  However, there are similarities of which, war and violence are two of them.

The first settlers of Sweden were reindeer hunters who came after the end of the Ice Age between 12000 and 10000 B.C.E.  Trade with the Roman Empire soon followed after stone and bronze tools were developed.  Later the Vikings sailed in pursuit of commerce and conquests around 800 and 1050 C.E. and landed in what is now Sweden.  This land was then ruled and settled by the Vikings before 1000 A.D.  The reign of the Vikings, however, ended around 1000 A.D., when Olof Skotkonung became Sweden’s first Christian king.  It didn’t take long before Christianity was the prominent religion in Sweden.  During the 12th and 13th centuries the Swedish people spread Christianity throughout their lands and they even spread their territory into Finland.  In 1397, Queen Margaret I brought Sweden, Norway, and Denmark together forming the Union of Kalmar.  This union ended in 1523 when Sweden withdrew from the union after the “Stockholm Bloodbath”.  This is when Christian II of Denmark invaded Sweden killing a prominent leader Sten Sture and many of his followers.  Gustav Eriksson Vasa was the next king of Sweden and he reigned for many years bringing about fair economic changes.  During the centuries that followed Sweden grew economically because of its bountiful resources of iron, copper, fur, and timber.  Sweden remained neutral during World War I and World War II and was able to maintain a good sound economy during this period without having to rebuild after the Wars were over.  They maintained a welfare state called the folkhemmet “the people’s home” which worked very well creating a high standard of living and little to no poverty.  In the 1970’s the Swedish economy was not doing well and this was further affected by the assassination of Sweden’s prime minister in the 1986.  After this there continued economic decline and growing unemployment.  The country then in 1995 joined the European Union, but they did not take on the currency of the European Union.  Since they joined the European Union they have seen an improvement of their economic and unemployment situation.  The Swedish people are a very proud people and being able to take care of their own people is of great importance to them (“A Short History of Sweden”, n.d.).

The official language of Sweden is Swedish, which has been derived and influenced by Latin, German, and Danish.  The country lies between Finland and Norway in Northern Europe and borders the Baltic Sea, Gulf of Bothnia, Kattegat, and Skagerrak.  The climate is temperate in the south with partly cloudy winters and cool.  It is subarctic in the north.  The suicide rate in Sweden is one of the highest in the industrial world, possibly due to this type of climate and lack of sunlight.  The religion of Sweden is primarily Lutheran with millions of followers.  The Swedish people are mainly egalitarian in nature, and humble (“The World Factbook: Sweden”, 2018).

They find boasting unacceptable and prefer to listen to others than actually talk about themselves.  They tend to speak calmly and softly and rarely show very much emotion in public.  Their emotions and behaviors are well balanced towards “lagom” which roughly means “everything in moderation”. “The word lagom itself comes from a shortening of the phrase “laget om,” which literally means “around the team” and dates back to the Viking era between the eighth and eleventh centuries. Communal horns filled with mjöd (fermented honey wine) would be passed around and everyone would take a sip that could only be their fair share. “Sweden today might be known for cutting-edge design and fierce modernism, yet this Viking code of conduct remains ingrained in their mindset.”(Akerstrom, 2013).  This idea of “lagom” dates back to the Vikings who had settled in Sweden thousands of years ago, and has helped to contribute to how they respond emotionally today.  It has been a factor in determining how the Swedish people show their emotions or don’t show their emotions in public.  They are a shy but determined and loyal people.  This concept of “lagom” helps describe the Swedish people’s belief in consensus and equality in all aspects of their lives, including the government.  The family in Sweden is probably the most important of all.

They go to great lengths to ensure that parents have enough time with their children and that the rights of the children are protected.  The family is given quite a bit of time off when having a child and can also reduce the amount of work they do so that they can be home with their newborn child.  Since the Swedish people believe strongly in the idea of “lagom” competition is not encouraged and this is the case with all people and children. The Swedish egalitarian society comes from their intense historical background, which led to solidarity and nationalism.  Most of the “cultural etiquette involves the ritual enactment of equality” (Palmer, n.d.).  This concern and focus on equality and an egalitarian society contributes to how Swedish people show their emotions of happiness and sadness. They tend to be more reserved in public without outwardly drawing attention to themselves, all people’s being equal.  This is not that different than the Japanese expressions of happiness and sadness all being based on the collective society not on one person alone.

I will explain and illustrate how I feel the expressions of happiness and sadness are evident in one of Sweden’s renowned films.  The film I chose was “Persona” which was written and directed by Ingmar Bergman in 1965-1966.  It is considered to be a psychological drama film.  The movie does support many of the statements of how Swedish people express happiness and sadness and how this is portrayed in film.  I will first describe briefly who Ingmar Bergman is and what the film “Persona” is actually about.

Ingmar Bergman was born on July 14, 1918 in Uppsala, Sweden and died on July 30, 2007 in Faro, Sweden.  He was a Swedish film writer and director and is well known and respected around the world for his many films, “Persona” being one of them.  He is known for his “versatile camerawork and his fragmented narrative style, which contribute to his bleak depiction of human loneliness, vulnerability, and torment.”  (Taylor 2017).  He was the son of a Lutheran pastor and seemed to be “implicitly engaged in a search for moral standards of judgment” (Taylor 2017).  He went to the Stockholm University where he studied art, history, and literature.  This is where he began to write and act in plays and also began to direct student productions.  He then obtained a job as a trainee director at the Mäster Olofsgärden Theatre and the Sagas Theatre.  It was here that he was involved in directing a play that was not very successful, which was the Ghost Sonata by August Strindberg.  However, he did go on to become a full time director at Helsingborg municipal theatre.  Through this position he met Carl-Anders Dymling, who was head of the Svensk Filmindustri.  Ingmar Bergman became involved in the original screenplay of Hetz (Frenzy) in 1944, which was a huge success, and was directed by Alf Sjoberg, the leading film director in Sweden at the time.  This led to his first real success of a film he wrote and directed known as Kris (Crisis) in 1945 (Taylor, 2017).  This was followed by work he wrote and directed that involved topics based on his own experiences.  These were topics of love, the military, and the changing society.  These early works were centered on good and evil probably having to do with his religious upbringing.  His later films centered on marriage, and the reasons for faithfulness within the marriage.  These later films also centered on the concerns and issues of child rearing.  In 1955 he became an international success with Sommarnattens leende (Smiles of a Summer Night), a romantic comedy drama.  Next, came his films that were based on the contemplation of old age, the “Seventh Seal” and “Wild Strawberries”.  It was shortly after this time that he bought property on an island in Faro, Sweden.  This is where most of “Persona” was filmed, which is a dramatic film that portrays deep inner conflicts.  Ingmar Bergman received many awards over the span of his life; Swedish Academy of Letters Great Gold Medal, Academy Award for best foreign film for Fanny and Alexander (1982), and the Japan Art Association’s Praemium imperiale prize for theatre and film (Taylor 2017).  His legacy is based on how he addressed issues of morality concerning mainly the relationships between two people and a person’s relationship with God.  “Persona” which was filmed mostly on an island in Faro, Sweden is definitely based on issues of morality between different combinations of people.  It also represents Sweden, it’s culture, and examples of how the expressions of happiness and sadness are displayed by Swedish people in general.  While the emotions of happiness and sadness are not really the focus of the film it is apparent how these emotions are exhibited in this particular film.

The main actors in “Persona” are Bibi Andersson (Swedish) and Liv Ullmann (Norwegian).  They play the role of Alma and Elisabet Vogler, respectively.  The story is about an actress (Vogler) who is being taken care of by a nurse (Alma) at a cottage by the sea.  The actress, Elisabet Vogler had suddenly stopped speaking and the nurse Alma is assigned to take care of her while she is in this condition.  It turns out that Alma divulges much of herself to Vogler because she is such a good listener and is not speaking.  What she talks about are issues of morality, faithfulness or lack of it in marriage, attraction to another woman, and her admiration and possibly envy of Vogler.  Vogler, on the other hand, is dealing with her own issues of morality, her attempted abortions, not loving her child, thinking about herself and her career above all else, and getting lost in her roles.  Vogler begins to blur the lines of who she is and the roles she plays.  Who or what comes first, herself and her career or her family?  They both struggle with who they are, who they want to be, and doing the right thing based on the norms of their society.  Ullman was cast for what her face could say that Ingmar Bergman wanted to say without words.  It is interesting to note that her face was flat or blank for much of the movie and revealed almost nothing, expressionless, and showing little or no emotion.  Similarly, Alma often showed little or no emotion, but did have some displays of emotion. Though their faces did not show the emotions of happiness and sadness or much of any kind of expression, the appearance of emotion was still there.  The emotions of happiness and sadness were apparent though you could not detect these emotions from their expressions, but rather from their whole being.  If you looked at the two faces of both Vogler and Alma they almost looked like they could be twins, equal in appearance and being.  This is a Swedish trait that they are all considered to be equal and as such should be treated equally and fairly.  Mostly the other feelings that they have are not displayed in public; however, these emotions may be displayed in their own homes, privately.  The Swedish people will not show huge displays of emotion in public and that includes happiness and sadness.  This was evident in the movie, as neither Vogler nor Alma, did really express these emotions.  However, they did seem to struggle with the feelings that were not considered appropriate by their society or culture.  For Vogler this would be thinking of herself and her career, not really wanting to take care of her son, and not really loving her husband, which are all against how the Swedish people are expected to conduct themselves.  Alma wants to talk and have someone listen to her instead of being the “good listener” all the time, wants to think about herself rather than someone else all the time, and wants things that are different from what someone else may have.  Maybe she does not want to be part of an egalitarian society.  Whatever the case is their expressions throughout the film are not easily discernible and are protected from the viewer as one might expect of someone from a Swedish culture.

These two movies “Seven Samurai” and “Persona” depict the two different cultures of Japan and Sweden.  They also represent how these two different cultures express the emotions of happiness and sadness.  It is interesting to note that though the cultures are very different they have some underlying similarities.  One of these is that both cultures tend to base their emotions of happiness and sadness on the whole group and they do not express these emotions in an individualistic manner.  If emotions have evolved over time and are greatly influenced by the culture in which the individual has grown up, then in both these cultures it would seem that over many years, the people have concentrated on the whole society and not the individual.  In the Japanese culture expressions of happiness and sadness are expressed but only in relationship to what is good for the whole group.  This was seen in the movie “Seven Samurai” that mostly if some event occurred that was good for the whole group then they were all happy and the same with the emotion of sadness.  A person could see in the movie an individual looking around before displaying these two emotions to see if it was appropriate and fitting for the good of the whole group.  This represents how the Japanese is a “collectivistic” society.  The culture in Sweden is not that different but their display of the emotions of happiness and sadness is not as visible.

The Swedish culture is more of an “egalitarian” society and thus, the sentiment is more that everyone is equal.  This means that they do not necessarily express a feeling based on what is good for the whole group, but more on the basis that they are equal.  This is difficult to explain and is a very fine distinction. In the movie “Persona” the two main actresses did not display huge amounts of emotion at all, whether it be happiness or sadness.  Yet, these emotions could be perceived below the surface.  The Swedish people are very good listeners and are not prone to boasting or talking about themselves.  Vogler in the movie did not talk at all, was a very good listener, and did not let on whether she was happy or sad.  The viewer could tell that she was troubled and trying to deal with her problems in a way that was very internal.  Alma, on the other hand did talk on and on, because she finally had someone who would listen.  However, most of the time when she was talking, she was expressing in words happiness and sadness but not really showing these emotions.  What was striking to me about the movie was how much the two actresses looked alike, not necessarily in physical appearance but in their expressive states.  They were two individuals from Sweden being portrayed as two equal individuals as would be expected of their society and culture.

Annotated Bibliography


Åkerström, Lola Akinmade. “The Single Word That Tells You Everything You Need to Know About the Swedish.” Slate Magazine, 20 Sept. 2013, www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/roads/2013/09/sweden_s_lagom_the_single_word_that_sums_up_the_swedish_psyche.html. Accessed 24 March 2018.

Lagom is a Swedish word that seems to say a lot about who the Swedish people are and what they believe in.  It dates back to the Viking era and is the philosophy that is a big part of the Swedish culture.  The article in this magazine helped me to better understand Sweden and its people and I found this article very interesting.  It is hard to say what had the greatest influence on Sweden’s culture and history, but this is one of them.

“Early History and Culture.” Ushistory.org, Independence Hall Association, 2008, http://www.ushistory.org/civ/10b.asp. Accessed 26 March 2018.

This source gave a brief but thorough description of the history and culture of Japan.  I explored the different periods in Japan’s history, including the “Warring States Period”. It was during this period that the samurai warriors were prevalent.  The movie that I focused on in my paper is called the “Seven Samurai” and is based on these very noble and loyal warriors.

“Emotions and Culture.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, n.d., https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emotions_and_culture. Accessed 10 April 2018.

This particular statement that quotes Niedenthal was a good view on what the affects a collectivistic culture can have on a society.  The Japanese collectivistic culture is one of the main influences that determines how they express the emotions of happiness and sadness.  How people express their emotions is influenced by the culture in which they have spent most of their early years.

Goleman, Daniel. “The Brain Manages Happiness And Sadness in Different Centers.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 28 Mar. 1995, https://www.nytimes.com/1995/03/28/science/the-brain-manages-happiness-and-sadness-in-different-centers.html. Accessed 18 April 2018.

This New York Times article was very informative on the studies conducted by Dr. George in 1995.  He studied the activity of the brain when his test subjects were experiencing happiness and sadness.  His method used was positron emission tomography and is similar to fMRI, which is used more commonly today.  It was very interesting to learn that several areas of the brain are activated when experiencing these emotions not just one.

Hane, Mikiso, and Mikiso Hane. Modern Japan: a Historical Survey. Westview Press, 1986.

This book was another good source for the historical developments in Japan.  It also described the cultural developments, which included cinema.  In order to have a better understanding of how the emotions of happiness and sadness are displayed in Japanese film, the development of Japanese cinema is important to understand.  The quotation that I took from this book I felt was a very good concise picture of Japanese film.

Johnson, Gregory. Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, n.d., http://www.iep.utm.edu/emotion/. Accessed 21 March 2018.

This Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy explores the theories behind how emotions have originated.  It discussed evolutionary, social, and cultural theories.  This source also explored if the process of how emotions are emitted is either cognitive or non-cognitive. It was very informative on the subject of emotions and how there is still much to learn about emotions.

Keltner, Dacher, et al. Understanding Emotions. Wiley, 2014.

Understanding Emotions is a textbook that I have from one of my psychology classes that I have taken at Landmark College.  If I had not taken this psychology class preparing this paper would have been a lot more difficult. I have really enjoyed all the psychology classes that I have taken, and am glad that I was able to use some of that acquired knowledge in this paper.

Kurosawa, Akira, director. Seven Samurai. Toho Co., Ltd., 1954.

The “Seven Samurai” was the film directed by Akira Kurosawa that I used to show how the Japanese people express the emotions of happiness and sadness in film.  I felt that it also supported the cultural connection of how the Japanese express these emotions because of the dominant role the samurai played in Japanese history.  Their expression of emotions is based on the whole community or group, since the whole group is considered more important than the individual.

Palmer, Brian C. W. “Sweden.” Countries and Their Cultures, n.d., http://www.everyculture.com/Sa-Th/Sweden.html. Accessed 25 March 2018.

I was able to learn a lot about Sweden and its culture through this source.  The source described Sweden as being an egalitarian society, which I found, contributed to how they expressed their emotions of happiness and sadness.  It also discussed the history, customs, ethnic relations, and politics of Sweden.  Increasing my knowledge in these areas helped me to understand the people of Sweden a little bit better, though nothing can replace actually meeting Swedish people or living in their country for a period of time.

Persona. Dir. Ingmar Bergman. By Sven Nykvist and Lars Johan Werle. Perf. Bibi Andersson, Liv Ullmann, Margaretha Krook, Gunnar Björnstrand, and Jorgen Lindstrom. Svensk Filmindustri An Ingmar Bergman Production, 1966.

This is the movie directed and written by Ingmar Bergman that I used as my Swedish film when writing this paper.  I found the film to be not only interesting but also able to capture the expressions of happiness and sadness that is a basis for my paper.  The Swedish people do not express the emotions of happiness and sadness in a very demonstrative manner and this was evident in the film.  I thought that this film was very supportive of the statements made in this paper.

Sato, Tadao. “Kurosawa Akira.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 16 Mar. 2018, www.britannica.com/biography/Kurosawa-Akira. Accessed 22 March 2018.

This was a good source for researching the background of Akira Kurosawa. It was helpful in learning about his upbringing and what led him to become a film director.  His father being a former samurai warrior was an interesting fact and possibly a reason for his interest in the “Seven Samurai”.

“A Short History of Sweden.” The Environment in Poland, n.d., www.baltic21.org/history/sweden.html. Accessed 6 April 2018.

This was a source on the history of Sweden, and its’ influence on the surrounding areas.  Its’ location has contributed to much of the history, as it gave access to the Vikings to land and spread their influence in the region.  The climate has also contributed to how Sweden has developed as a country.

Taylor, John Russell. “Ingmar Bergman.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 15 Nov. 2017, www.britannica.com/biography/Ingmar-Bergman. Accessed 5 April 2018.

The life of Ingmar Bergman was described in this source and was very thorough.  It discussed his upbringing and how this connected to what type of films he wrote and directed.  He wrote different types of films depending on what period of his life he happened to be going through at the time.  It was through this source that I was able to understand “Persona” better and critique how the emotions of happiness and sadness were portrayed.

Woodford, Chris. “Science of Happiness – The Positive Psychology of Being Happy.” Explain That Stuff, 19 Oct. 2016, http://www.explainthatstuff.com/scienceofhappiness.html. Accesed 30 March 2018.

This source helped me to better understand the neuroscience of emotions, particularly happiness.  It also described a little bit about how the ideas of the physiology and psychology of emotions has changed over the years.  The actual neuroscience of emotions is continually changing, even today, and more difficult to understand.  The more technical aspect of where emotions are located in the brain and how they are all connected is touched on in this article.

“The World Factbook: SWEDEN.” Central Intelligence Agency, Central Intelligence Agency, 1 May 2018, https//www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/sw.html. Accessed 2 May 2018.

This source is a great source for obtaining facts about a country.  It lists the government, climate, religion, language, geography, people and society, and economy.  This source is a great source to start to orient yourself with the basic current facts about a country.

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