Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Video production as an aesthetic

Stephanie Daley (2007), evidently inspired by some of the "dumpster baby" stories that hit the news a few years ago, seems to have been discussed only in terms of its politics and psychology. But I find it interesting in its use of video both as a production technique and a source of aesthetic principles.

The title character undergoes counseling, sessions which are videotaped. The point of view in these sequences switches without comment from the video feed to an "objective" or "real world" camera view. The real-world view is often handheld, with racking focus and erratic framing, whereas the confessional context of counseling is locked down and focused.

But the "real world" view also shows us things that Stephanie is telling the counselor, taking us to places that we could not otherwise go. And so in a sense, the whole movie lives in Stephanie's head--or is it in the counselor's head, since we are privy to her parallel story of first thwarted, then anticipated motherhood.

Films based on the video aesthetic could be said to be happier indoors, actor-driven, prefer longer takes in which acting and camera movement define space rather than editing, in which color is muted or variable, but for which the camera is given extraordinary access. And that access is demonstrated most explicitly in the scene of Stephanie's restroom labor and delivery. More than one person has said the scene recalls a teen horror film, and one has to reflect as to whether that was intentional.

(Speaking of being actor-driven, the cast of Amber Tamblyn, Tilda Swinton, Melissa Leo and Jim Gaffigan is superb.)

Film critics and historians use the term "a woman's film" to mean stories about relationships, family, crises of identity and the like. I'm not sure any other film has gone so directly to the heart of the central fact of being a woman, the capacity to conceive and give birth, and how that capacity radiates to so many other aspects of a person's life. Some female directors, like Kathryn Bigelow and Mimi Leder prefer to view themselves as just another director, not unique or limited because they are female. Obviously, writer-director Hillary Broughton has no such concern--only a woman could have made this film. For me, it's like seeing a foreign-language film in English--a fascinating look into an alien world, with different vocabulary and customs.

1 comment:

  1. These days Video production has become a vital instrument for the endorsement of products and presently it is very crucial. The promotion and communal relation groups across the globe have been paying a lot of attention on producing small screen businesses.