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By now you know that I am a big fan of Alfred Hitchcock and his ‘pure cinema’, the picture itself playing the lead role over all the other elements available in filmmaking. This week I watched the movie 127 Hours (2010) with James Franco in the lead, because I was curious how they would tackle the challenge of a protagonist being on his own and stuck in one place for most of the time. Would they tell the story purely in pictures or would they resort to escapes such as a protagonist talking to himself a lot or many flashbacks with lots of dialogue? Because a lot of the story was filmed by the main character in real life – it’s based on the true story of Aron Ralston and he talks to his camera a lot – they weren’t completely confined to a non-talking movie and let the pictures do all the talking, but I didn’t know that when I started to watch it.
But something happened while watching it, which I didn’t see coming. As I noticed the cinematography, it’s hard not to, I thought: this is my favourite way of photographing! Extreme wides and up close & personal. And then immediately another revelation came, at least for me, that practicing photography actually helps your storytelling skills and your writing too. I guess it sort of depends of what you like to photograph and how, but my favourite way is capturing stories, be it big or small. Even when doing nature photography, I always like to let the audience, the viewer of the photo, know where we are, the context, the season. And sounds, dialogues, music or artificial effects play no part at the moment you capture that picture. You tell the story right there and then with what you capture. At least that has always been my intention and desire with it. And in the case of extreme wides and up close & personal, it speaks volumes about the mood and emotion you want to share and that kind of composition gives you an immediate feeling of the feeling that is portrayed, don’t know how else to put it, without anyone ever saying one word. The picture itself, especially when the composition is done right, talks to the audience. On his own. They did do that pretty well in 127 Hours, in my opinion.
It never dawned on me until now how much my background in photography – I’ve being practicing it since I was 13, when I got my first photo camera – plays a role in my big love for ‘pure cinema’. And although it’s the director’s, cinematographer’s and editor’s decision what to show and how and in what order, tempo and rhythm to tell the story, it is the screenwriter’s job how to write those scenes and how to bring across the message he/she wants to tell. And if I do that job right, I should be able to bring across that mood, tension and emotions without the need of all those other elements: sounds, dialogue, music or artificial effects. I think if you can’t do that as a writer, then you’re missing the most important part of the story: the story. I don’t have to tell you how many movies fit that description, where they lean too much on the other elements to save the movie, but I sure would like to be on that other team. The story one. Which is much harder. But we’re game, aren’t we?
Sometimes the most obvious things in life don’t become clear to you until you start to focus on it and learn more about the topic, like now. Funny, isn’t it?