Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Straight Out of a Frost Poem

This week we only watched three films in my cinema class since we had Robert Todd, a guest director, come to discuss some of his films. (More on him later). All of the films this week used elements of nature in some way (hence the title of this post) to get their point across. Nature has the dual purpose of being something both tranquil and powerful at the same time. It reflects the theme of this week: spirituality and simplicity because it represents a higher power, but does so in an uncomplicated manner.
1. 31/75 Asyl, Kurt Kren (1975)
 The process of how this film was made is as important as the film itself. Kren recorded the same location over a period of time and covered the lens, cutting different holes so that each time, different locations could be seen. He used the same strip of film for the entire project. The effect gained is one that appears like a puzzle. Small pieces are put together to make a bigger scene that shows variations in times of day and weather. It seems at times that the elements are competing with each other for dominance in the scene and in the viewer's line of sight.
The process of using only one strip of film reminded me of the theory of the hyperreal as put forth by Jean Baudrillard. Since the images are layered over each other there is no way to tell which is the original or which occurred on a certain day. The images have become a copy of a copy of a copy, there is no longer a point of origin. I feel like this is what Kren is trying to say with his film. It is just showing a certain environment at a certain period of time. There is no beginning or end to this place; it has existed before and will exist after he stops shooting.
2. Kristallnact, Chick Strand (1979)
This film was arranged in a very particular manner to tell a story about the Holocaust and the film's namesake, the Night of Broken Glass. The film begins with dietetic sounds of nature and splashing. It is also very dark so while the beginning seems innocent, there is something sinister hiding underneath. The camera is too close to tell for sure what is really going on. With the sound of a train going by there is a definite shift in the tone of the film. The sounds shift from those of day to that of night. The film is no longer an innocent romp in the water. One of the swimmers disappears and non-dietetic, hypnotic music is added as the other swimmer searches for her missing companion. When the final scene shows solely moving water with no girls swimming in it, there is a sense that the water is trying to erase what has happened; covering and hiding all things. The film can be seen as representative of the actions the Nazis took first destroying the innocence and ending youth, the tearing apart of families, and finally an attempt at removing an entire population of people from the globe.
3. Story of a River, Peter Hutton (1997)
My view of the Hudson River from the Railway Bridge seen in the film

As a person who has spent fifteen of their twenty years of life living in the Hudson River Valley, this film struck a chord for me. I even saw the old Railway Bridge near my house in one of the film's scenes.  I liked the idea of telling a story of a location through nature, specifically the Hudson River. There was a very majestic feel to the film; there are many gorgeous shots of the river in different seasons covered in ice or as smooth as glass. There is a balletic quality that comes with the film and in seeing the water. The way it moves and the way the boats move through it is very graceful but at the same time very powerful. The power of nature is also transmitted through the silence of the film which helps the viewer appreciate the full effect of nature. 
The editing also adds a nice touch to this film. Hutton solely uses the fade out technique to transition between scenes. With the screen fading to black every time the image changes it gives the viewer the impression of blinking or closing one's eyes in sleep. Each time the eye closes, the location changes which gives the sense of dreaming or traveling through locations in the blink of an eye.
Robert Todd
(Fable, Stable, Interplay, Bliss, After Morning, Groundplay, & Golden Hour)
It was very interesting to have a director in class and see his interpretation of his own films and the creative process he went through to make them. However, I was not a huge fan of Todd's work. While most of it was aesthetically pleasing, I felt that it lacked real depth and did not evoke a response in me as a viewer. The one film I did like that he showed was "Bliss." That film has a great ominous feel that was built up with the dietetic sound and the images of the rolling storm clouds. The shots of the people walking along the beach ignoring the storm brewing behind them shows how unaware people are of power of nature and the world around them in general. "Bliss" was also one of the shorter films Todd showed. I felt that many of the others just ran too long with no important purpose.

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