Monday, 17 October 2011

Documentary to Animated Documentary

In our lives we all watched documentaries; some of us love them and other cannot stand them, some find David Attenborough’s voice to be absorbing when others just want to pass out of boredom. In the end we have all seen a documentary, but what is a Documentary? You can say a documentary is a film trying to attempt to document a present or pass reality. The scenes we see are not scripted and the chosen footage will speak for itself or at times rely on a voice-over narration to help the viewer understand. Mostly all documentaries have no actors and interviews are taken by real people.

My personal two favourite documentaries both released in 2008 and one of them some may consider not a documentary at all; Ari Folman’s “Waltz with Bashir” and Werner Herzog “Encounter at the End of the World” are two documentaries that has changed my view in both film and documentary.  Encounter of the End of the World is based on Werner Herzog exploring the Antarctica but not because of global warming or discovering an accent artefact. The documentary focuses on the people who live and work there, capturing striking footage of locations and unreal stories of the people who choose to live “at the End of the World”. Ari Folman’s Waltz with Bashir is somewhat half animated film and half documentary which is quite odd in a documentary genre. The animated documentary film is based on the 19 year old Ari Folman’s memory on the aftermath of the Sabra and Shatila massacre in the 1982 Lebanon War. Personally Waltz with Bashir has a film like linear narrative structure following Ari attempting to regain his lost memory of the war at the same time teaching us what the 1982 Lebanon War was about.
Lighting Beirut
Both documentaries have remarkable ways of fascinating you. What I liked about Waltz with Bashir is how Ari used his personally experience as a linear structure of the documentary of discovering his traumatised state. As he un-covers more of the massacre by talking to soldiers that was there. When talking to his friend, in a film senses it is a bar scene but in a documentary senses it is an interview, so we as the audience hear the story. Just like a WW2 documentary when interviewing an ex SS Nazi or a US marine we as the audience hear their story. With striking footage, Werner narrates the documentary in a mesmerizing way and entrancing you by not showing you but by bringing you along for the ride. A scene when Werner goes diving with two scientists under the icecaps “I noticed that the divers in their routine were not speaking at all. To me, they were like priests preparing for mass. Those few who have experienced the world under the frozen sky often speaks of it as going down to the cathedral”. I could not but help venerate how Werner illustrated the documentary and that he was not reading a script but reading poetry “Our presence on this planet does not seem to be sustainable. Our technical civilization makes us particularly vulnerable. Human life is part of an endless chain of catastrophes, the demise of the dinosaurs being just one of these events. We seem to be the next.” 

Under the End of the World
I just appreciate how both directors use simple ideas and break through the simply conventional idea of how a documentary should be. With Werner using beautiful opera and his mesmeric voice to hypnotise you I just can’t wait for more of his documentaries and with Ari taking a structure of what is a film but made it into an animated documentary film and taking 4 years in the making of Waltz with Bashir it’s a shame that this film is banned in Lebanon.

Sunday, 9 October 2011

The Great Films with the Greatest Soundtrack

I've watch thousands and thousands of films in my twenty one years on this earth and actually being able to list my five all-time greatest films at this early stage of my life as a film student too, some may say “It’s more or less impossible to list favourite because it keeps on changing”.  For me to say; Vanilla Sky, The Fountain, Gattaca, Assassination of Jesse James by the coward Robert Ford and Drive are my top five films of all times, people may question my judgement on films with Vanilla Sky being number 1 and has been for the past 10 years. But that is for another blog to describe how Vanilla Sky changed my life both in cinema and life. Personally to make the perfect film all the elements must be ticked off; cinematography, narrative, character depth, plot and personally most importantly soundtrack. I want to leave the cinema speechless, I want to be not able to describe why I love it and I want the feeling of “je ne sais quoi”.

With great films comes by great directors with; cinematography, narrative and so on. The director’s job is to take the script and artistically and beautifully put in on the screen and show it to the world. But to create music for the film how can the composer visually see it music? And with that it is more or less impossible but yet composers like; Clint Mansell, Michael Nyman, John Williams, Warren Ellis and even Nick Cave are to me the untold and unsung heroes for cinema. Yes “Requiem for a Dream” is one of the most noticeable films both cinematography and soundtrack. I would hear people say “That film is F**king amazing and the soundtrack is beautiful” and phrase Darren Aronofsky and wouldn’t even know Clint Mansell. I’m not discrediting Darren at all but personally the soundtrack is one of the major reasons why “Requiem for a Dream” so dam powerful and successful. If it wasn’t for Clint Mansell creating “Lux Aeterna” with the beautiful and yet daring violin orchestra I couldn’t imagine those last scenes of Requiem for a Dream being that gut clenching and giving you goose-bumps.

In the last scenes of Andrew Dominik “Assassination of Jesse James by the coward Robert Ford” when Jesse knowing of his assassination he walks and stands on the chair with Robert Ford standing behind his hero waiting to shoot him from behind. You can see how he feels and you can feel what he feels with Warren Ellis and Nick Cave creating the song for the soundtrack “What Must Be Done”. I could imagine unwilling killing my hero and this song coming on and that’s what Ellis and Cave wanted. The title of the song is the scene “Do what must be done”, Robert killing his childhood hero to save himself and be credited as a hero and when he does kill Jesse it all fails and his is discredited and hated by many, “Song for Bob” is truly is a song for Robert., living with the guilt and shame of not wanting to kill his hero. With song perfectly ending with the narrator ending the film “The shotgun would ignite, and Ella Mae would scream, but Robert Ford would only lay on the floor and look at the ceiling, the light going out of his eyes before he could find the right words.”

The favourite films that I have listed I have all the soundtracks on my iPod and at times I would listen to them and somewhat imagine myself in the film and in my favourite scenes. I would imagine I’m Tom Cruise running through the empty streets of Times Square, kissing Rachel Weisz for the last time, being Ethan Hawke on board a shuttle ship leaving earth and shooting my hero. That is what a great film with the greater soundtrack is; thinking about the film, feeling the film, hearing it and wanting to go back to the film without even watching it.

Re-read this article and listen on youtube to Clint Mansell - Requiem for a dream Lux Aeterna,  Michael Nyman - The Departure or Warren Ellis and Nick Cave - Song For Bob at the same time and you can see that just this paragraph can be magnitude a thousand times more.