Monday, 31 August 2015

Racing Extinction

Documentaries are about achieving an artful balance of persuasion via engaging testimonials, revelatory visuals and the undeniable pleasure of enlightenment. On one end of the spectrum, documentaries which sensationalise events, told with skewed perception and rely on shocking, bizarre imagery - are bias to a fault, sceptisism inevitably invading the audience. But failure to dramatise events for the sake of entertainment results in a stale retellings, the attention of the audience wanes. However documentaries which strike this balance behold beautiful and terrifying powers. They have audiences believing in conspiracies, illuminated by horrible histories, inspired into activism. They can persuade viewers to change their lifestyle, their awareness, their diet. These films are infectious in their conviction and pure in their vision. It is director, environmentalist and photographer Louie Pshioyos who clearly appreciates this - his fascination with the storytelling utility of cinema and its use as a  "weapon of mass construction" is clear. His 2012 docu-drama, The Cove, illuminated our screens with the iconic image of a blood-filled cove, revolutionising the modern documentary genre and went on to become one of the most widely-viewed and awarded documentaries in the history of cinema. Racing Extinction, built on the same potent ambition and avant-garde technical niche, is a sobering tale of a human reality and the ugly future with awaits those selfish and ignorant to its severity.

Racing Extinction throws light on all of the environmental truths most people try to ignore. Director Louie Pshioyos addresses human impact on a faltering environmental by illustrating the grand plan to salvage our dying planet including the small but wonderful ways individual activists have sought change by using their own talents and then highlights the various operations which undermine its entire cause. In many ways, Racing Extinction is a look at Psihoyos own environmental awakening-  how he became conscious, then angry in his conviction and now driven in his pursuit for a future. He champions awareness and action, identifying our current environmental state as a war zone, the apathetic and greedy are the enemies and for once the impending apocalypse upon our loss has some realism attached to it.

Sunday, 2 August 2015

Visual & Sound Diary: Fanny and Alexander (1982)

Director: Ingmar Bergman
DoP: Sven Nykvist
Music by: Daniel Bell

Prolific Swedish director Ingmar Bergman was a visual master, an auteur who worked closely with his faithful cinematographer Sven Nykvist in crafting, if not elaborate colour schemes then dancing shadows of black and white, investing heavily in elaborate production design to achieve his visions. His works range from savage medieval fables and nostalgic road trips to indulgent depictions of identity crises, dying days and the angst of betrayal. His filmography may vary widely in content and story but all of his features explore common concepts of religious faith, sexuality, death, insanity and family. An ever-present yet subtle fantasy element often teases intrigue from the audience, the dialogue is consistently unusual and intuitive and like most excellent films, Bergman's bare a lasting legacy, its retrospective charm particularly strong. 

Fanny and Alexander, sitting at almost 5 hours in length, is Bergman's magnum opus: a sprawling summation of the director most consequential ideas. Fanny and Alexander follows the lives of its two young title characters, who are wrapped up tightly in a curtain of familial comfort. A lively Christmas showcases the large and loving Ekdahl family, each link of the family tree affords a rich array of subplots. The once secure fate of Fanny and Alexander takes a sharp turn when after the sudden death of their father, the children's mother makes an impassioned choice of independence by remarrying into a family of the church. Digital manipulation of imagery and sound is conservative and elementary, Bergman choosing instead to organically create sights for the benefit of the audience, constructing
generous and indulgent sets of parties, plays, wakes and weddings. But Bergman's films were the result of not his exclusive love for visuals but of the marriage between music and imagery. Many of his films showcase an indulgence and infatuation with classical music, from Bach to Chopin, Schumann to Beethoven - the filmmaker evidently favoured romantic and baroque era pieces. For the accompanying music I have selected the opening piece by German composer Robert Schumaan, the second movement to his celebrated, quintessential Piano Quintet in E-flat major, Op. 44.