Notes on Short Film

Lengthy diatribe on brief cinematic experience.

Posts Tagged ‘christopher nolan

8 No Time Left

with 2 comments

Cinema cannot make the world better, but more aware, yes. – Gaspar Noe

This is the overarching theme of the 8 No Time Left campaign, in which eight filmmakers produced eight short films about the Millenium Development Goals set by the UN in September of 2000. By 2015, they hope to cut world poverty in half. The issues the filmmakers explore include poverty, education, equality, child mortality, maternal health, HIV/AIDS, environmental sustainability, and development. (You can read more about the No Time Left project on their website.)

I’d like to focus on two of the films included in this project, by two auteurs with distinct filmmaking styles, Mansion on the Hill (2008) by Gus Van Sant and The Water Diary (2006) by Jane Campion.

Honestly, I’m not sure I see the connection between a skateboarding montage and child mortality. The information Van Sant includes in the film is startling, and I can appreciate the simple way he reveals his purpose to the audience – with statistics in bold white lettering across a montage of young adults testing their limits. The only connection I could reach for is that many children will not get the chance to try things like skateboarding, because they’ll never reach the age to do so. In developed countries we take advantage of our time for leisure and ability to try any activity, while Third World countries struggle to meet the physiological needs of their younger generations. The simplicity, short length, and nonfictional nature of this short stands in stark contrast to Jane Campion’s short.

This film blew me away. Campion tells a much larger story about resources and sustainability through the eyes of a child dealing with the hardship of extreme drought and global warming in a diary format. The film has incredible pathos to move people to action; it is fiction, but it is believable fiction that represents a coming reality. The film includes great visual effects, like the scene where the children are leaping over clouds formed along the ground. My favorite part of this film is the way Campion framed many of the wide shots; when the protaganist finds out her parents had to kill their horses, the camera is so far away that the conflict between characters is going on down in the bottom left corner of the screen, while the audience can see the barren landscape these people exist in. She frames another scene, of Felicity playing her viola, through the window of her house at night, beautifully focusing our attention on this central figure offering hope to her community. The last shot, where Felicity plays on the hill as the clouds behind her gradually darken, offer the audience a glimpse of ambiguous hope (I’m thinking of the very last scene of Christopher Nolan’s blockbuster Inception) even as it visually suggests “dark days” are still ahead. This film is one of my favorites from this entire semester.

You can find more information on the anthology on the United Nations Development Program website, and on the Sydney Morning Herald’s website.

Doodlebug (1997)

leave a comment »

Director Christopher Nolan is known for pushing the boundaries of narrative form. (Need I mention Memento (2000)?) His recent, high-grossing, accomplished films – Batman Begins (2005), The Dark Knight (2008), and Inception (2010), to name a few – are no exception. But before all that, there was this 3-minute short, shot on black and white 16-mm film while Nolan was studying English Literature in London. (The film was produced by Emma Thomas.) There are some notes on the production of the film at christophernolan.net.

Kristopher Tapley of InContention.com writes of the short:

You could pull out themes of identity, or reality vs. perception, maybe.  There’s certainly an undercurrent of paranoia in his films that has roots here, too.

Rather than a message of identity, I see a message of violence and imperialism. I see Mr. Nolan saying, “Look, it’s no use dominating those who are smaller and weaker simply because you’re bigger and stronger and more impressive, because that weaker guy? You are him. We’re all the same. The only person you’re hurting with that violence and domination is yourself.” Sound a little political?

Nah.

%d bloggers like this: