As the year continues, many of these posts will be philosophical in nature. Some will be in contradiction to previous postings. These are not intended as truths or assertions, they’re merely thoughts…ideas. Think of this as stream of consciousness over a wide span…
I went to see a period war film last night, and something stuck out to me. Well a lot of things stuck out to me, but one thing in particular really pulled my attention. [ed. This was an indie film from outside the U.S., so stop looking at listings trying to guess which one… ;)] There was a scene where the film took the classic approach of slow everything down ever so slightly, strip almost all of the sounds, and alternate between a montage of violence and the protagonist looking shell-shocked. It’s something we’ve seen many times in many films, and it’s become a form of cinematic short hand to put the viewer within a character’s perspective. There’s also an assumption that, I think, comes along with the adoption of this approach: that it’s going to work.
In this case, it did not.
When used properly, the concept of less is more can be a powerful story-telling philosophy. It has to work in the context though, and less is more certainly doesn’t mean strip absolutely everything out. This particular scene did just that, everything was gone except for the oh-so-favorite shell-shock sound of tinnitus. The scene lost all its pacing, it dragged and felt way too long…despite the variance in pacing of the visual edit. There was something about the combination of context, use and duration of the treatment that just pulled me out of the story and made me wonder, “How long is this going to last?” The thing that hit me, as I sat there waiting for the film to get on with the story, was that sound could have fixed the pacing in this moment…it could have given the sequence an emotional trajectory. It just actually, for a change, needed more sounds to do it.
…not many mind you; a handful would have gone a long way…but that’s still more.