Riffing off of Tom Woodward’s recent exercise he posted, I experimented with using six film frames to capture the essence of the film’s narrative. It might also be a nice way to think about how the juxtaposition of images make meaning, without worrying about drawing those images. Almost reverse engineering Kubrick’s filmic logic. So, here it is, and I was fortunate enough to find screenshots from Kubrick’s The Shining from this post here. Now to make this an assignment for the Digital Storytelling course to build on the five random images to tell a story, but more on this assignment shortly.
So, which transitions don’t work? I was also thinking about this version:
I’ve been thinking about the juxtaposition of images in making meaning recently in the context of my own film class. My students and I talked last week about dialectical montage and, more specifically, the way the last sequence (at about 1:00) of this clip http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r88MRozUxIE works to let you know what happened to poor little Elsie in Fritz Lang’s M. So this has been right on the brain for me.
Looking at your sequences, especially the 1st one, Jim, I am struck by the fact that they make sense to me precisely because I know the story. And I don’t think there’s any other way to do it since we’re only talking about 5 images here. If I didn’t know The Shining, the first one would work kind of like this:
1. Kid annoys dad on car drive.
2. Dad gets drunk and . . .
3. . . . goes after mother with an axe (note how we assume it’s dad even though we don’t see him)
4. Mom throws kid out the window to save him (we now know the kid was in the bathroom with her)
5. Kid dances like Iggy Pop in the snow
6. Dad freezes to death (presumably trying to dance like the kid)
The fun in this exercise, I think, is precisely in that the story is much to complicated to be satisfactorily represented in 6 images and that we have to make difficult choices in trying to distill it. Might work better with 10 or more images, but much less interesting given that it would be far less challenging.
I’m definitely going to try this with my students.
Actually, I think I prefer your second attempt. It better shows his slide into insanity. Nicely done. And a bit scary.
Great post, Jim. Of course, Mikhail’s attempt to describe how someone who hadn’t seen the film might create a narrative from those five images is equally fascinating, and it points to a possible second (or third) part of the assignment. If you can pair students together who haven’t seen the movies that their partners have chosen, you could have one partner choose five images, the other partner construct a narrative from them, and then have the original partner write a short essay that examines the partner’s invented narrative and discusses the images chosen and the process of choosing them in light of that narrative. That would be a great way to have students analyze both their own selection process and the ways in which that process affected others who might try to draw meaning from it.
Ok, I am never seeing that movie.
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I like the first version because it encompasses the entire story as a whole. However, the second one really captures the scary/eerie essence of the movie which is the most important part. I definitely like the second one better. Thanks for the great examples professor.
Yeah, that sequence at the beginning of M is so haunting precisely because you don’t see the murder, and you are implicated in the Murder because through the editing you have to imagine her death. As Scott McCLoud suggests in the 3rd Chapter of Under Standing Comics (highly recommended for a film studies class actually) through closure, the act of the reader/viewer filling in the details, we become complicit in the act of finishing the job, so to speak.
And I actually like this exercise, as you suggests, because it is absolutely simplified and incomplete, but makes you think about the visual grammar that would allow you to convey even the most basic of stories. And what’s more, you don;t necessarily have to come up with a story, but interpret one you have already seen.
As for Danny doing the Iggy Pop…genius!
I actually hadn;t thought about this as a parallel narrative to the first, but the insanity point you made brings it out. In my narrative he could have just been on a bender. Here it becomes apparent he is a lunatic 🙂 I should have actually ended the 2nd version with the image of him at the Overlook hotel in the 1920s, it would have been better than snow cone Jack, I think.
That is a very cool riff on this assignment. I like the idea of each student giving another five images in a random order from a movie of their choosing, and expecting the other person to use those images to suggest what thhey think the plotline is. Very cool. I wanna work a version of this exercise in.
In my opinion this is Kubrick’s masterpiece, you really shouldn’t miss it. You’ll look at snow and hotels in a totally new light 🙂
I like the idea of the essence being some other than the plot line as you say here, and now that you and @robin2go are championing the second version, I’m beginning to think the essence of The Shining is not in the simple plot line of dad goes crazy and tries to hack up his family, but actually tracing the act of going crazy (or being crazy) in light of that family. That is what the film is about: paternal madness.
I was perusing the UMW sites and ran across this one. Very interesting. I’m taking an education course and we had to figure out a story from the series of check registers presented to us. The Google Superbowl commercial was a bit like this too- lacking the in-betweens bit relying on our own experiences to fill in the rest of the story. Could make a very telling project in a classroom.
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I like what you’ve done here. Really tricky though to tell a whole story in 6 frames!
I did something similar but much more pointless on my blog here: http://theincrediblesuit.blogspot.com/2010/01/30-minute-freeze-frame-challenge-1.html
Of course your exercise actually had a point. Still, it keeps me off the streets.
Keep up the good work!
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