House arrest has encourgaed me to complete some old work. In this episode The Auditor visits a local cafe and soon discovers the owners have a sideline going. Note this an animated GIF so give it a second to change frames.
Border is a Swedish fantasy directed by Ali Abbasi which traces the story of a Neanderthal looking Swedish customs official named Tina and played by Eva Melander. Her elevated senses allow her to detect low level smuggling at a small ferry port. As the plot unfolds she meets a kindred spirit and assists the police in breaking a child pornography ring.
I’ve seen this film before and thought I’d remembered the plot but was pleasantly surprised to be surprised. The plot is so inventive and the subject so strange I’d remembered the spiritual part of the story without recalling the actual plot. It would reveal too much to say any more but various threads interweave in surprising ways leaving us drawing analogies with Western treatment of indigenous people on the other side of the world.
It occurred to me early on that if this story had been told by Hollywood then the main characters may have been contrived t look strange but they would not feel strange. The characters in Border feelt stramge. Hollywood would have made them powerful and sexy but Eva Melander’s portrayal of Tina begins as unassuming and timid but discovers her power in a fantastic scene with a TV set. In fact the characters of both her and her kindred spirit were awkward yet compelling.
Much of the shooting is hand held and this lends it both a documentary feel and an intimacy which works extremely well when characters become angry. Though prosthetic were used they were comparatively restrained and it was the acting and camera which brought believability to the scenes. The story dips into Scandinavian folk lore and so probably has far more resonance with Swedes
The whole feel of the film was very Scandinavian. Forests, lakes, rain and animals contributed to render Tina’s character as in touch with the Earth though her day to day life was relatively mundane.
The screenplay is economic, leaving us to speculate. Was Roland on the phone to another girl friend? We’re not told but we see Tina’s reaction. A short scene has a colleague suggest a holiday, and this is later reinforced by a post card. Will Tina take the next step and go in search of her heritage?
At the end, she appears to follow her own sentiments and express her own identity when she claims she can see no point in evil and yet we are left wondering if this is instincts or upbringing which is perhaps, the point of the film.
Screen and Film School, formerly Brighton Film School, have made public their 8th April 2020 “Virtual Masterclass” where students heard from producer, screenwriter, TV Presenter, author and social critic Charlie Brooker. What a coup! For those who have lived in a cave for the past ten years, Mr Brooker is most famous for Black Mirror and Brass Eye.
Over two hours of Q & A. You lucky people!
Screen and Film School, formerly Brighton Film School, have made public their 6th April 2020 “Virtual Masterclass” where students get to hear from the director/producer duo and co-founders of Free Range Films, Roger Michell and Kevin Loader responsible for Notting Hill, The Death of Stalin, Hyde Park on Hudson, My Cousin Rachel and Le Week-End. After a discussion of their careers there’s a Q & A.
Favourite quote: “Julia Roberts had never rehearsed a movie before Notting Hill”.
Worth a watch in these days of lockdown.
We are living through strange days. In less than a month, the UK has gone from a liberal open society to a state of almost ubiquitous house arrest. On the streets people are suspicious of each other. On social media people are being “denounced” for minor infractions. The police issue threats on Twitter.
If people are behaving irrationally now, just wait until the discussion on vaccination begins. Some will say it carries risks and refuse the vaccine. Others will insist that it should be mandatory to ensure herd immunity. Have we reached a stage where our living conditions are so cramped and unsanitary that we have to be vaccinated like cattle to stay “healthy”?
The government declared that the homeless should be housed immediately to prevent spread of the virus. As with other measures taken recently this shows that, when the stakes are high enough, we can accomplish many things previously thought impossible. Pollution and CO2 emissions have dropped and are forced to re-evaluate our previous lame response to the “climate emergency”.
The hordes of tourists have gone and towns and cities have been returned to their residents. Animals return to spaces previous dominated by people. The skies are clear of vapour trails, the sunlight returns and its now quiet at night. On my Boris walks I see people sitting on balconies, in gardens or on their front steps just enjoying the day. They notice the blossom on the trees. They chat with their neighbours.
There is much talk of how the virus may change society and pundits suggest that we may become less keen on global supply chains, reliance on authoritarian regimes for essential goods and more willing to embrace state intervention over free markets.
I suggest that we may realise that for the past few decades we have sold our collective soul in pursuit of individual material gain and corporate profit. The left and the right have conspired to support a status quo modelled on an atomised global population where all non-corporate social institutions have been eradicated or assimilated and community means little more than sexual orientation or an online hobby group.
Maybe we have now reached a watershed and this is a chance for real change. But change wont come automatically. We need to grasp the opportunity. We need to agree on what change we want.
I have some ideas. I’d like to see a massive drop in tourism. Yes I travel and I adore exploring different countries and cultures but we know absolutely that mass tourism destroys the thing it loves. To herd over 5 million shuffling nit-wits through the Sistine Chapel every year just so they tick it off their bucket list does nothing to increase appreciation of Michelangelo but does make the area somewhere to be avoided by locals and since halting mass tourism may have been a major step in bringing CO2 emissions under control then restarting it would be nothing but selfishness.
But that’s just my idea. What about yours? How do you think the world should change?
I have a handful of films in the planning stage. One idea is to interview random strangers and get them to talk about their lives, how they live and how they see the future post coronavirus. I’m starting to build a list of questions. Some personal and some general. If you have ideas for questions or ideas of the changes that may come then please reply here or contact me via the contact page.
Continuing my course in Cinematic Story Telling I was instructed to collect example photos and videos demonstrating contrast and affinity for each of Line, Tone, Colour, Shape, Space, Motion and Rhythm. I present them here for your delectation and comment.
Line – Ice Cold In Alex
A contrast of the line of the windows in the background and the diagonal composed of the characters perhaps demonstrating the contrast of this unwashed improperly dressed rabble and the salubrious bar which they occupy. Our eye is drawn along that line as they wait and watch Captain Anson pause and savour the moment and then down’s his first beer in a long time.
Tone – The City of Lost Children
An affinity of tone. The overwhelming tones of this film are red and green bringing consistency and helping to give this world some weird reality.
Colour – The IPCRES FILE
The contrast between the natural colours of Harry Palmer and the artificial electric mauve of the background. Made in the mid-sixties the colour would be associated with modernity and fun which contrasts with the grim position in which Palmer finds himself. There is also an affinity as the colour may also be associated with hallucinogenic drugs which may be part of the dreaded IPCRES process Palmer resists. Also interesting that the background goes dark to light left to right where as Palmer is lit from the left so the shadow is on the right.
Shape – Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence
Affinity with culture iconography. The shot has an affinity with an image that many people brought up in a Christian culture will perceive as the crucifixion of Christ. The arms outstretched as if on a cross. The curved window reminiscent of a church. The battered state of Major Jack Celliers.
Space – Withnail and I
Contrast of space. Previously we have seen grim urban scenes. Shaby, drunken dissolution. The two have arrived at the cottage at night so they see nothing. Next morning we see a close shot of “I” emerging from the cottage, half dressed and hung over. And then suddenly we see what he sees. A wide shot of the beautiful natural environment to overcome his cynicism and appeal to his spirit. This is really effective on a big screen in the cinema. Note that in the youtube video I have linekd to the editor is wanker as he has inserted credits at the crucial moment.
Motion – Grave of the Fireflies
Contrast between the movement of Seita (and his sister) and the crowd around him emphasising that they are alone in the world.
Rhythm – Zulu
The rhythm of the shouting “Fire!” and the cutting from guns to men and then finally quiet and the cut to a slow pan and we see the horror that is the result. Note that in the video I have linked to all hell breaks loose at about 5 minutes 50 seconds.
During the national house arrest I am studying Cinematic Storytelling and after each session I type up my notes. I thought it might be useful to publish them here as there are some great insights into the art of telling a story using the visual medium of film. I’m not looking to go in depth but just try to impart some of the snippets I’m picking up from the course. There are some great ideas.
Here’s one: Film is a temporal medium in that the artist controls time as well as space. Obvious once you say it but worth thinking about. The Moscow School did a lot of work on Agitation and Propaganda (Agitprop) studying how film worked and they found that a shot is interpreted in the context of the shots surrounding it. So much so that they found that an identical expressionless face was interpreted differently according to whether it was preceded by a plate of food (Hunger), a body in a coffin (Sadness) or an alluring woman (lust). This is known as the Kuleshove Effect.
Sergei Eisenstein created the idea of a montage which is a series of shots without plot which convey ideas. To the Russians this conveyed great ideas such as the people rising up against the Tsar but the Hollywood version of montages is usually a sort of scene setting devise such as the training scene in one of those boxing movies overlayed with music.
Now some terminology. Exposition is what the viewer needs to know. It is what the director must convey for the story to be understood. e.g. that The bomb will go off at midnight or that the guy with the moustache is a detective. Film is constructed of frames, shots, sequences, acts and movies though only animators are really concerned with frames. Story boards are like comics and are used to pitch idea. Perhaps to prospective sources of funding. Conflict is what drives the story. The director’s job is to guide the eye of the viewer. In this context line, colour, shape and rhythm play a large part. Contrast and affinity are very important to create emotion.
There are various structures to stories. The Heroes Journey is a popular one which fits for films like Star Wars and Lord of The Rings. But get this: some bloke named Kenn Adams created the story spline which he thinks can be used to construct most stories. The story spline is a series of sentences with only the first few words filled in. The creator of the story must complete the sentences. It goes like this:
Once upon a time…
But, one day…
Because of that…
Because of that…
Because of that…
And, ever since then…
Part of the course is to construct a story using this method. Here’s mine:
The Day The People Stood Still
One upon a time there was a planet which mastered the challenges of science and technology though the benefits were unevenly spread and their industry gradually killing the other animals on the planet.
Every day some of the people worked like slaves to buy things they didn’t need while other people sat and fretted that they couldn’t own as much.
Then one day a virus erupted and spread all around the planet.
Because of that the government’s ordered that people should stay at home and because of that industry stopped and because of that nature began to reassert itself and polluting gases subsided and because of that the people started to appreciate what the planet gave them naturally and the time and peace they had to enjoy it.
Until finally one day the virus petered out and just as the government was about to spend billions of tax payer’s money restarting the industry that had been destroying the planet the people said ENOUGH!
And then the glass clouds over and either they lived in peace ever after or the whole economy collapsed and there was mass starvation and war. Difficult to tell from the limited information available.
After a burst of push button work after Christmas to top up my funds I am starting to focus on film again. I am preparing a short but very angry drama. I have a draft script and interest from actors. A venue has still to be found but since Boris has us all under house arrest I’m using this time to study cinematic storytelling on Kadenze. It’s good stuff. One thought provoking idea from today’s session as that a story is about how one person changes another.
I’ve used Adobe Premier Pro for my previous work but have now installed Davinci Resolve and am working through a tutorial. Its good software. I have a few gripes but, hopefully, these will be no more than teething trouble.
Last year I was assistant camera on an indie feature film shot in Brighton named High Water by Black Rock Films. Shooting is now complete and the rough cut looks very good. Black Rock still need Finishing Funds to get it across the line so if you earn good money then consider contributing to the arts. You may never be a movie star but you can get your name on the credits.
Contribute here: https://igg.me/at/-THUr0owG-U/x/10340881#/