SADNESS, DESPAIR, MELANCHOLY – Moving Image Assignment.

This is a short piece that I developed for a university assignment. We were placed into groups and assigned a primary, secondary and tertiary emotion. We had to develop a film using these emotions and the theme of ‘place’.

In my past film projects, I have tended to be incredibly controlling in terms of how I want the film to look and be. As such, I often wound up taking up the majority of production roles. I hoped that this assignment would encourage me to work as a group and be more comfortable with other people producing some of the work. I was quite excited to have other people take on some of the production roles this time around. In all actuality, nothing changed from my prior film experiences. I still wound up being very controlling in terms of the films content, and wound up taking the majority of production roles. This is largely because a couple of group members were particularly difficult to deal with and did not pull their weight at all. For this assignment, I wound up storyboarding, partially shooting, and editing the film. Furthermore, I composed the films sound track as well.

In the development stages of the film, our central concept centred around how grief is externalised and/or internalised by individuals. I showed a number of short films to the group, trying to demonstrate what I had in mind in terms of an aesthetic style for the film. I showed a couple of short films by Jørgen Leth, and a few by David Lynch. Leth, who was originally both a poet and anthropologist, is a self taught filmmaker. In his films, his background as a poet is made apparent as his films carry a strongly poetic feel to them. His films are clean, crisp, minimal, and well constructed, whilst also being deeply emotionally provocative – like poetry itself. It is from Leth’s filmmaking that we drew the large majority of inspiration for this work. Disappointingly for me, group members did not take too well to the work of David Lynch, and the resulting work was not as Lynchian as I would have liked. However in hindsight, looking at the film now, it was probably for the best that Lynch did not come through as an influence.

Drawing influence from Leth’s 1975 film Good and Evil, we decided that having two individuals performing similar actions, although slightly different , would be an effective way of communicating the externalisation and internalisation of grief or sadness. Sadness is an emotion that shows in different ways. It is either openly externalised and expressed (through crying, for example), or it is internalised and repressed. The first form results in a sadness that is commonly associated with despair and absolute agony. The latter form though results in a form of sadness that is more subdued, and more easily likened to a form of depression or melancholy. In an attempt to juxtapose the two states of mind, we settled on a split screen format for the film. The left would display outwardly externalised despair, whereas the right would depict an internalised form of grief. The two in a left-right placement imply a temporal narrative progression, almost like a before and after shot. It is suggested that perhaps the second form of grieving follows the first. This is further implied through the actual narrative that we settled on, where the individual in the right frame is able to continue with daily life, whereas the first individual remains in bed, in the foetal position.

Compositionally, I aimed to recreate the sense of isolation and emptiness experienced during periods of grief. Thus, I composed each shot with the idea of negative space in mind.

Negative Space

When I finally got down to editing the film, there were a number of issues I had. Firstly, my copy of Final Cut stopped working so I instead had to edit the entire piece in Premiere Pro. This led to a whole range of exporting and compatibility problems further down the track. Also, it turns out that we had shot a lot more footage than we needed. I had to completely rework the ending of the film. In retrospect, I like the ending that I developed during editing over the initial ending that we had planned. In the final ending, the film returns to a single screen set up, and shows the central woman leaving her house, and then cuts back to her lying in bed. On one hand, the film suggests that they are temporally located at different points, however the ending creates a sense of uncertainty and we are left unsure as to whether what has just occurred is occurring on a different temporal plane, or whether it is occurring within an imagined reality within the mind of the protagonist.

In terms of music, we initially had a composer lined up. However, due to time constraints, we were not able to edit the film and give it to the composer to write a score and record it. Instead, I composed the film’s music. I drew influence from Yann Tiersen  when I was writing the score for our film. The score begins with long held chords, sparsely played, then gradually builds upon this to a climax. This then dies down and returns to the beginning motif. There are only two primary chords used in the composition, demonstrating the two different characters and emotional states depicted visually.

Compared to my previous film work, I feel that this piece has been a development in terms of filmmaking style, practice and ability. I would have liked to have worked as a team more, but this was somewhat difficult when some people did not contribute or show up to anything. That being said however, it was fantastic working with some really talented and enthusiastic individuals who were always eager to help out. It was great having some people on board who actually knew what they were doing in terms of scriptwriting, and also the paperwork/organisational side of things.

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