Saturday, January 4, 2014

Film Emulation of Music

I have long though that music has so much more going for it than film, in terms of the quality and effect it can have on people. You can sit and get lost in music for hours, like a meditation. While film requires your focused attention, it has a potential to go even further.

Music is a sound and time dimension, but with incredible ranges and dynamics within it. Film includes music as only one of it's dimensions. Additionally film has image, motion, visual time, dialog, visual human emotion and visual and sound effects. There is a vast untapped potential in film if we think in terms of using it to please or effect so many senses at once in the same way that music can with only sound and time.

In this regard, it seems storytelling and three act structure are only one possibility, or one possible element. I think David Lynch, Stanley Kubrick, Chris Nolan, Quentin Tarantino, Terry Gilliam and other filmmakers who venture beyond conventional film structure are exploring these ideas. And this seems to be with writer-directors, indicating a very tight understanding and translation of the written intention to the actual execution. Films that seem like a dream structure (or even a nightmare) are one possible structure.  Mulholland Drive is like this. Inception is more literal and structured but seems to explore the dream concept, almost as an instructional seminar on how to write dream like movies. Films that play with time like 2001, Brazil, 21 Grams, Pulp Fiction or Memento are perhaps other areas of exploration, and closely related to dream structure.

When we think about the past or remember things, we don't play them back in our mind chronologically. We remember one thing and then that triggers another memory, perhaps that occurred before the first one, and that may trigger a thought we have about an expected future, and so on. yet most films are chronological going from A to B to C.  It makes more sense in terms of how we remember things if we wrote stories in B to A to C to B structure as Pulp Fiction seems, or maybe even backwards like Memento, going D to C to B to A. But these are just one area we've explored. There are probably any number of possible ways to go limited only by imagination.

Ted Hope wrote a blog asking for a film metaphor, and I had to respond with my ideas as follows:
I was thinking, a symphony orchestra, but you'd have to include the composer writing the pieces, and the concert hall putting on the show. I think there is much parallel in music, and music has hundreds of years of a head start over film. But have we yet to find our great classical musicians and pieces that will last for centuries, like Beethoven or Mozart (Scorsese and Coppola said films were at only 6% of what they could be, in the interview you shared)? I love some filmmakers we have.  But music is so universal, timeless, and soul touching, especially the classics.

Also the dynamics of music, just looking at the harmony among so many different instruments or even within one piece played on a piano, with the bass track countered by the melody and so on (perhaps similar to a film crew, cast, and post team). I don't think we are near that kind of wonderfully solid organization in films yet that you find in music, even with just the directions on a page of music to inform the players of beats, feelings, dynamics and so on.  And I think this is mostly a task of the writers, just as it was and is with composers.

Possibly screenwriters need to plot out what each position needs to be, similar to how a composer writes a separate sheet of music for each instrument.  At this point I think each film department works out their own approach to what they do, under the director's vision.  But if you look at this in terms of music, it would intricately planed in detail by the writer or director, in script format, maybe shotlist format.  That would seem to leave little creative control for the department artists. Yet in music each musician still interprets the music as written, but with individual skill, talent, and emotion.

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