Some of my favourite movies are independent films, which many of my friends either haven’t watched or feel bored by. But these films have helped me reflect and relax during some difficult times, and have lent my diary multiple helpful quotes and songs. Today, as I finished re-watching Paterson after an exhausting day, I felt like sharing some of my observations about independent cinema or cinema in general. And why it works, at least for me.
- The way conversations are shot
The use of wide shot in conversational scenes makes them more immersive, as opposed to the usual back and forth manner where you see only one of the actors’ faces at a time. As a viewer, you also have the body language to draw from, apart from just the dialogue.
- Rhythm and editing
While I understand why some people may find the rhythm to be off, I feel that there are more layers to how an indie or short film is cut. As you reach the end, the switch-overs, in many ways, inform why you arrived where you arrived. Some directors even shoot the movie sequentially so that the actors’ performance can grow with their characters and the story. I hereby plead guilty of watching too many film festival interviews!
- Little hints written into the script
I like how tiny character details and references are written into the script. Sometimes they are as simple as the colour of the scarf that the protagonist would wear. And music is almost like another character in the movie! What’s more is how these little details not only aid storytelling but also seem to seamlessly coalesce into rich characters. And the place and time references have sent me on many a ‘history hunts’ on the web.
- Sum of parts
The slice-of-life narrative allows the story to take a more natural shape since the entire plot doesn’t revolve around one big event that happens either in the beginning or the end of the movie. Much like life itself, it’s a series of events, a sum of parts that make up a whole.
- They’re all different
Indie films are subtly funny, heartbreaking without being mawkish, fairly precise and yet universal. Although I have observed these commonalities in most of my favourite movies, there are, of course, many unique aspects in every one of them. It’s also weird that I relate to them differently every time I watch them!
Independent cinema has made me look for the details and fall in love with the art of storytelling and film-making. As Sister Sarah says in Lady Bird, maybe love is the same thing as paying attention.