CineMathematics or CinemaThematics. Your choice

Saturday, September 29, 2007

The Power of a Shot

Yesterday I ventured out to see my first film in a British theater, and I felt compelled to blog about it. After all, I have significantly less time to trek to a theater, and the costs are significantly more. A trip to the theater becomes an event for me, as I will be doing it so rarely. But I digress. The film in question was Apichatpong Weerasethakul's beautiful Syndromes and a Century. I'm glad I picked this, as it is well worth my time, and yours as well. As it slowly makes its rounds, I would highly recommend you give it a go. It is a true art film, yet its sense of humor manages to make it bearable to those who aren't swept up by its beauty.

Syndromes actually made me recall American Beauty, strangely enough. There is a shot at the end of Syndromes, that of smoke being sucked into a ventilation shaft, which struck me with the force of a hurricane. In fact, I may go so far as to say that the shot made me believe in the presence of the divine. Here's where American Beauty comes in. We all remember this scene:

I felt some inkling of that as I watched that shot. My feelings were not nearly so intense, but I thought that it's hard to imagine something so beautiful could just happen without something higher up. I didn't feel great comfort, that somehow God is here and everything will be alright. No. I just felt the presence. Upon further reflection, it felt stupid to feel this way.

After all, this shot wasn't something natural. Even if you dismiss the scene from American Beauty as pretentious, it can work within its context. He saw something that was natural within his world. That bag's movement is not natural for us. There were probably fans blowing at it from just off screen to create that movement. And so we cannot feel the same feelings as he does because it's not real. In the same way, that shot in Syndromes and a Century was probably carefully crafted with fans and a smoke machine. There can't be a divine presence here. This was man-made beauty.

And yet, if this doesn't prove the presence of God, then it at least exemplifies the power of film. The director, through a slow build up and the persistence of a certain tone throughout the film, can take us places we've never been before. It can make us feel things that should be embarrassing, yet I don't feel embarrassed about it. This was a moment that reminded me why I love film, and why I write about it. It's the feeling I hope for every time I step into a theater or pop in a DVD. If only for a few minutes, I can feel something this powerful.

What moments in film transport you? What movies remind you why you love movies? What shots strike you as especially profound?

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Blogger Jonathan said...

As wierd as it sounds, I saw a shot that really affected me as I watched the first episode of TV's Friday Night Lights. After a player is injured during a game, we see shots of family, teammates, and friends all concerned because no one knows how serious it is. Then there's a quick shot of the opposing team, kneeling in a line, holding hands.

For some reason, the shot brought tears to my eyes. The show had managed to capture a moment that I consider to be very real and profound; it wasn't about teams and winning anymore. No matter how hard they hit each other, when one of them goes down, they all feel it. So seeing the faceless "enemy" kneeling, holding hands in prayer or in superstition, it did so much more for me than any monologue could do.

And my favorite part is that it's a split-second shot.


1:35 AM


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