The Camera, the Tripod & the Wardrobe

End Product:

Artistic Statement

The technique which most fascinated me this semester (and which I subsequently decided to focus my final piece on) was continuity editing. I used various shots to narrate Olivia’s movements. A scene from the film The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (2005) had resonated with me for some time. When I viewed it more recently, I noticed the cleverness of the continuity edits and thus decided to replicate that scene for my project. The director, Andrew Adamson, used a combination of temporal and spatial frame connections in conveying his protagonist’s exploration of the wardrobe, in particular removing the sheet which draped it.

Creative geography is also implemented effectively in the Adamson’s film, which I strove to replicate in my own work. His editing made it seem like his character walked out the back of a wardrobe and into a magic land. This is a technique I have noticed in other fantasy films, such as Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005), when Harry and his friends enter a tent which, from the outside, seems tiny, but is a magnificent suite inside. Given that this technique seems to be associated with magic, adventure and surprise, it seemed legitimate to adopt.

I used a variety of external sound effects on top of the film, in addition to the sounds which were present when I created the film. I also edited several songs to create a background track which would create tension, excitement and fit with the fantasy theme.

With my decision to create a child-like, imagination-provoking piece, I turned to another children’s classic, The Wizard of Oz (1939), for inspiration. Fleming implemented colour in an unusual way; Dorothy’s initial story was told in sepia, but the screen was splashed with colour when she arrived in the magical land of Oz. I used this technique to draw the audience’s attention to the final frame: is she in a new land? Is she dreaming? Why couldn’t she see the colour before?

Alternative & Experimental Cinema

Experimental, or ‘avante-garde’ cinema, is a model of film-making which steps outside archetypal cinematic conventions. It creatively explores non-linear formats of narrative. It began in the 1920’s, almost a century ago. It began with works such as Man Ray‘s Le Retour a la Raison (1923), which is shared below.

The avante garde trend continued into American film during the 1950’s and 60’s. A prime example is the 1969 John Lennon and Yoko Ono film, Rape. It tells the narrative of video assault in a format which deviates from traditional storytelling standards. Ono’s cameraman picked a young woman, seemingly at random, and chased her down the street with his video camera, documentary style.

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taken from aaronlburton.com

Experiments in Cinema

Experiments in phenomena which is yet to be fully understood and appreciated by humans, such as dreams, memories and points of view, became popular from the mid-1900’s and remain constant in modern film also. Examples include Destino (1945-2003) from Walt Disney and Salvador Dali, and Anomalisa (2015), directed by Charlie Kaufman and Duke Johnson.

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Anomalisa film poster (source: IMDB)

Documentary is another trend which transformed the nature of narrative. It is often associated with non-fiction film, yet this is not necessarily always the case. An example of documentary cinema is Nanook of the North (1922), directed by Robert Flaherty.

Expanded Cinema

Expanded cinema is a phenomenon which pushes the cinema experience beyond the medium in which it has been traditionally constrained. It is characterised by a rejection of the one-way communication between the cinema screen and audience. Stan Van Der Beek coined the term in the 1960’s, when the notion of the participatory audience began to trend. There are no limits to the creativity which expanded cinema can conjure. Recently, virtual reality has been combined with expanded cinema to achieve a new audience effect.

Subverting Cinematic Conventions

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Cinema is an avenue for exploring or resisting against political and social change (source: Young Revolution)

Creativity in cinema often comes from escaping conventions, or developing new ones. As such, cinema has been revolutionary media in multiple periods in time, not just when it became mainstream in the 1920’s. This often stems from significant political or social change; including sexual revolution, civil rights and wars.

Auteur Theory

Auteur theory relates to the concept of ‘personal filming‘. It considers the director of a film to be its major creative force (instead of the screenwriter) because they control what the camera sees (and thus captures). Examples include blocking, lighting and scene length. Auteur theory argues that those editing and production techniques hold a higher importance in film production than its story-line.

La Nouvelle Vague: The French Wave

Auteur theory built up during the 1950’s, in France. It was the rise of the ‘film school generation’, where film became an intellectual exercise. Critical analysis and writing of film became valued. This period of time is characterised by low-budget films, often with non-actors, experimental editing and storytelling involving youth, social issues and themes of existentialism.

In 1959, Francois Truffault broke away from these ideas, deciding the films of his peers were too political in nature. He decided film should be more about the medium. Thus he directed a film called The 400 Blows (1959) which celebrated the ‘spirit of being alive‘, rather than social issues or sentimentality.

In the same year, Jean-Luc Goddard directed Breathless, a film which focused on cinema as a sensory experience. He used shots as thoughts. At the same time, a group of other directors  continued to create literary, political propaganda-like films within the conventions of the time.

Contemporary Art Cinema

During the late 1950’s, “underground film” began to surface in Hollywood as an alternative to mainstream cinematic conventions. Matthew Barney is one such director. He broke away from conventions of time order, through releasing his five Cremaster films (1994-2002) in the order ‘4, 1, 5, 2, 3’, rather than chronologically. He also used very little dialogue.

Subverting Audience Conventions

The traditional audience sits in a chair quietly and observes the big screen until the film is over. In fairly recent years, a movement against this began. The Rocky Horror Show, for example, adopts audience participation methods to rebel against these constraints. Similarly, The Room (2003) incorporated audience activities such as:

  • throwing spoons at the screen; and
  • yelling various words at the screen.

Another example is smellovision , a technology which releases various scents and odours throughout a film to enhance the audience’s experience, or their reaction to a particular event.

Discontinuity Editing

Discontinuity

Mark Cousins once said that continuity editing is the equivalent of using the word “then” in a story. There are three general formats of continuity editing;

  1. Temporal connections: the relationship between a symptom and result, for example one shot may show a glass being pushed off a table and the second will show glass smashing on the floor below.
  2. Spatial connections: the relationship between an object and its environment. This could be a wide shot which cuts to show a closer detail.
  3. Logical connections: for example a wide shot of the white house which cuts to a shot of the President sitting in his office; the connection between the two shots is implied to the audience.

Discontinuity editing is the antithesis to the above; it challenges the audience’s expectations and causes them to feel alienated or disorientated. Below is an example of discontinuity editing from Apocalypse Now (1979), directed by Francis Ford Coppola.

Soviet Montage Theory

Soviet montage theory is an approach to film-making which relies heavily on editing. After the first world war, particularly during the Russian Revolution, the need for film as a mass-communication tool grew. Newsreels were produced with aims of propaganda and agitation, to consolidate the masses. The first film school was built in Moscow, All-Russian State University of Cinematography.

Lev Kuleshov was a pre-revolution film artist who explored the notion of meaning being more than merely spatial. He claimed that the arrangement of images creates meaning, and the order of that arrangement modifies the meaning.

Creative geography, in the film-making sense, refers to the illusion of arranging images from different locations. This began the notion of film as immune to barriers of space. The following scene from Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire is an example of this. Editing makes the the inside of the tent seem magical and lavish, although the logical mind can tell that the outside of the tent and its ‘inside’ are filmed on separate locations.

Eisenstein, a student of Kuleshov, developed a five methods on montage;

  1. Metric: varying the lengths of shots and edits;
  2. Rhythmic: using editing in such a way that it creates a rhythm in the film piece;
  3. Tonal: aims to create resonance with the audience through associating colours with different characters, places or events;
  4. Overtonal: the combined effect of the previous three. It aims to extract an emotional response from the audience; and
  5. Intellectual: the expression of ideas through various editing techniques, for example through visual metaphors.

Kino-Pravda

“This is I, the machine, maneuvering in the chaotic movements, recording one movement after another in the most complex combinations. Freed from the boundaries of time and space, I co-ordinate any and all points of the universe, wherever I want them to be. My way leads towards the creation of a fresh perception of the world. Thus I explain in a new way the world unknown to you.” – Vertov 1923

This is a movement which is somewhat against typical video camera design and usage. Since the video camera created cinema as a medium, it was treated as similar to the theatre, despite cinema possessing the ability to host its own language. It was used to record what the human eye could already see and observe – which is confined by boundaries of time and space – rather than expand that field.

In the 1920’s Vertov broke away from this idea.

“To this day we raped the movie camera and forced it to copy the work of our eye, and the better the copy, the better the shots were considered. As of today we will unshackle the camera and we’ll make it work in the opposite direction.”

In the film The Man with the Movie Camera (1929), Vertov played with editing and time to acquaint his audience with the new language of cinema, specifically condensing and freezing time via editing.

Contemporary Montage

Intellectual montage is now a very common element in twenty-first century films and music video productions. Film language has grown exponentially in sophistication and the ability of editing to create meaning in film (and an audience’s subsequent ability to interpret that meaning) has developed immensely.

Cinematography

Cinematography is the union of art and technology. Its techniques and practices cannot be judged alone. Effective cinematography is that which works for the film and its context. Roles on a film set which integrate to create cinematography include the screenwriter,  director, actors and producer above the line. Below the line, important roles include that of sound technician and design, camera, production design and editing.

Each film, location and actor presents a field of new opportunities, problems and solutions. Editing and design considerations include the use of lighting, camera techniques and colour design.

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Colour theory is used in cinematography (source)

Italian Neorealism

In 1940’s society, which was governed by the end World War II, Italy became the “centre of the movie world“. The primary content produced was naturalistic and explored the lives of ordinary citizens (the working class) following the end of the conflict. Cinematographic features of this period include the use of non-actors, filming on location and a shift away from ‘happily ever after’-type endings.

Hollywood Film Noir

This trend was born in the 1940’s and travelled through to the next decade. It was influenced by neorealism and the rise of the paperback novel. These films generally featured fatally flawed characters driven to a fate, along with an enchanting femme fatale. Cinematography practices were pessimistic and dark. They featured bare lighting, darkness and heavy shadows. Although film noir phased out towards the end of the 1950’s, it remains a steady influence on Hollywood films today. A post-modern example of film noir is Ridley Scott’s Bladerunner (1982).

Cinematography has transitioned from analogue to digital; this has triggered the growth of a variety of new methods, techniques and innovation. Examples of this includes CGI, which was used in Hero (2002) by Christopher Doyle and the use of digitalised colour to separate each dream in Inception (2010). Birdman (2014) was constructed through digitally stitching together shots to create single, long takes. Director James Cameron is known and respected for his digital innovation in films such as Titanic (1997), Avatar (2009) and Terminator 2 (1991).

Australian cinematographers of note include John Seale, whose works include Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (2001) and Andrew Lesnie, who worked on Lord of the Rings (2001-2003) and Babe (1995). Once upon a time cinematographers were predominantly male, however this is slowly beginning to shift. Female cinematographers from the current context include Mandy Walker, who worked on Australia (2008) and Maryse Alberti, whose most recent production is The Story of Wikileaks (2013). 

The Sound of Technological Singularity

For my second instalment (view my first here) of Where I’m From, I decided to take a generational approach rather than a personal one. We are digital natives; we were effectively born inside computers and this has had a huge impact on the meaning of our lives. The world has become a computer in itself.

This collision of art and science is an idea I drew from the work of Carsten Nicolai. Similarly, Haroon Mirza experiments with electrical noise to create art. My inspiration was technological advance because it is inevitable – but up until what point will it be seen as desirable? Will there be a point in time where technology advances beyond the capacity of humanity to control it? This is a feat which is much anticipated by academics and conspirators alike, known as technological singularity.  Are we there now? What does this sound like?

This is an evolving moral panic which I drew upon to craft my piece. The piece begins slowly and somewhat elegantly, before building up to a busy, intense and fearful climax, at a point where technology is too big; it’s everywhere, we can’t control it anymore. I conveyed this through increasing my use of reverberation toward the centre of the piece, and adding complementary layers positioned at either the left or right speaker, to create an uncomfortable sense that the audience is being stalked. A human screams when it all becomes too much, and the noise subsides. However, just when the persona’s panic retreats, an eerie artificial voice whispers “access denied”. This is to warn against reaching the point of no return.

 

Sound cloud Image: source

Dial-up sound taken from here

Where I’m From

 

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I come from the swing on the tree in my yard, which my mother once told me was magic

That’s the first line I came up with in my attempt to replicate George Ella Lyon’s poem Where I’m FromWhen my family moved to our quaint little farm, my mother dubbed the large ornate tree beside the house the faraway tree, a reference to Enid Blyton’s novels which she, her mother and I have grown up reading.

The Lumiere remoscope principles allowed me to focus on the setting of a place and manipulate the objects within them to tell a story. I focused a lot on the tree itself, and pushed the swing so it would sway like a pendulum, to represent tradition and the passing of time in the same way a grandfather clock might.

To add a story element, I applied the ideas of Steven Spielberg (director of Jaws); sometimes what an audience does not see on a screen impacts them more than what they do see (source). I did this through intentionally not displaying the fall which is implied. I left the tyre swinging as though a child had fallen off and run inside. This creates a question in the mind of the audience from the first frame; gradually the mystery is solved as the film evolves.

-Claire