Transitional Violence in King of New York

  • Author(s): Soren G. Palmer
  • When: 2014-04
  • Where: Journal of Religion & Film
  • Abel Ferrara’s violent and controversial film, King Of New York, follows the escalating violence and resulting trail of corpses between mobster Frank White (a psychotic sort of Robin Hood) and a group of detectives attempting to arrest him. The goal of this paper is to utilize Elizabeth Swanson Goldberg’s grammar of transition as a structural device to identify negative connections that highlight and foreshadow sources of violence in King of New York. However, simply noting the process of these transitions is insufficient to the paper’s broader purpose; if one is to investigate the causal elements of violence through structural analysis of transitional grammar, Rene Girard’s psychological framework is also necessary. Hence, this paper will argue that, in the film, the law acts as a metaphysical border separating the two groups (gangsters and police officers) until mimetic rivalry escalates into violence. This escalation can be witnessed through the progression of transitional grammar; as negative connections intensify, subtle juxtapositions turn into blatant repetitions. As the doubling escalates, the metaphysical border of the law diffuses into a blurred dichotomy where the two groups become identical and the most virulent connection takes place: the cycle of violence (or, Girard’s mimetic contagion).

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