I wrote “Transformer: Exploring Todd Solondz’ Palindromes Through the Eyes of the Russian Formalists,” in 2006—one semester before I dropped out of my PhD program. I have learned much about writing since producing this work, but I am publishing it here despite its flaws because it will never see the light of day if I do not make it available somewhere. For better or worse, here it is.


Todd Solondz first came to my attention when I discovered that he had enlisted the services of Belle and Sebastian, independent music’s celebrated circus of sulk from Scotland, to provide the soundtrack to his film Storytelling (2001). It was fated to be—the band is to Solondz as hand is to glove.  The first song on the band’s third LP, The Boy With the Arab Strap (1998), titled “It Could Have Been a Brilliant Career,” features a protagonist that could easily be a character in one of Solondz’ films: “He had a stroke at the age of 24/It could have been a brilliant career/Selling lies to the boys with the old Dansettes/Pulling the wool, playing the fool, it’s no wonder that he is dribbling spit tonight.”[i] The characters that populate the band’s songs, like the characters in Solondz’ films, are awkward and gawky, repellent and reticent.  Indeed, while Solondz’ characters are fundamentally different from their Hollywood counterparts, it could argued that they occupy a specific type like the Russian Formalists used.

Solondz’ latest film, Palindromes (2004), uniquely uses typage and other formal elements to defamiliarize the story of the pregnant teenager, thereby revitalizing it and infusing it with new meaning.  This essay will explore these elements—including defamiliarization, creative acting, and typage—through the eyes of the Russian Formalists, focusing in particular on the works of Lev Kuleshov and Sergei Eisenstein.

[i] Belle and Sebastian, The Boy With the Arab Strap, compact disc, Matador/Jeepster, OLE 311-2, ℗ & © 1998 Jeepster Recordings.

To read it, click here: Palindromes Paper