Long Journey To Subtlety

Metaphors have never been my strong suit. In high school I took two terms of classes dedicated to general film knowledge, which culminated with the analysis of Volker Schlondoff’s “The Voyager“, based on Max Frisch’s novel “Homo Faber”, and then Peter Weir’s “Witness“. I did a decent job at it, but more nuanced aspects eluded me. I still remember my surprise when I learnt that the black sunglasses in “The Voyager” were a very clear analogy of Oedipus’ ripped out eyes.

In fact, my reception of most movies has been pretty superficial. I usually enjoyed them, some of them made me think and even deeply ponder, but hardly ever did I find deep meaning, allusions and subtlety hidden beneath the obvious surface. I was also full of hubris, often pointing out what I considered mistakes. A few kind, more experienced people attempted to subtly point to me, that perhaps these “mistakes” were intentional, but I was too arrogant to listen.

It also did not help that up to fairly recently I was involved in a very superficial form of video production, where the main goal was to straightforward educate, entertain, and show sponsor’s gear, often without any subtlety altogether. I longed for something more, but I had forgotten what this more was about. Or perhaps I have never really known it.

This began to change when I started listening to The Cutting Room Movie Podcast, where I was reminded of the depth that this form of art can achieve, and the humility it can be approached with. Granted, I still had problems looking at movies in this way, but most definitely Joseph Christiana and his friends influenced me enough for my point of view to start shifting.

With some surprise I found out that after a while I was able to easily pick on the Indian ascent-descent trope in the “Cloud Atlas” – albeit in the book, where it was more obvious than in the movie. Though I still dismissed the numerous ascent-descents or descent-ascents in the movie as overinterpretation, when my friend tried to follow-through with the idea.

Similarly, at the 29th Warsaw Film Festival I went to see Daniel Zimbrón’s “Tau” with my partner and her friend. At a first glance the movie was almost meaningless, unwatchable, we all barely were able to sit through to the end. But afterwards, a discussion started, and I was able to explain how this movie was a metaphor for the redeeming journey, facing one’s own fears, destructive power of alcohol, and the healing power of peyotl made possible by an experienced guide. This realization made me appreciate this movie more, though I still believe it did not strike a good balance between the entertainment and metaphor.

Next was my participation in the creation of That Studio’s “Hero Punk” trailer. It was a very interesting project – shot 100% on green screen, with background plates to be created as CGI. Somehow I became the project’s vfx creative director, which entailed making a lot of creative decisions regarding the look of numerous elements. Several times I found myself picking a colour or a certain detail which I wanted to look one way or the other to convey a message or to underscore something. It was then that I realized the depth and amount of decisions that are being made for each movie scene.

Still, when by accident I saw “The Snowpiercer“, one of the more interesting movies of this year, I did consider the ending nonsensical. It took a long Twitter discussion with @TumultFilm to make me seriously consider the possibility, that the director made exactly the statement that he wished to make. I still have my doubts as to some details, and I am not totally convinced that something couldn’t have been done better, but I no longer think that it was a reckless, forceful happy ending. I believe that the metaphorical layer of Snowbreaker holds up quite well under scrutiny, even if it lacks the subtlety to make this movie great.

In the end, I grew to appreciate the depth of design and premeditation in film. When I recently heard the words of the famous cinematographer Steven Poster interviewed on CraftTruck that “every element in every frame informs the audience”, I said to myself “of course!” – I finally understood what that meant.

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3 Responses to Long Journey To Subtlety

  1. Jay says:

    Snowpiercer was a really great movie but I agree, the ending was a bit off. Not a bad sci-fi flick.

  2. Johnnie says:

    “The” Snowpiercer?

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