These are some of the directors whose work have influenced me over the course of making my film.
I’m a big fan of Martin Scorsese’s work. Scorsese’s films closely imitate real life, which is definitely a style I wanted to achieve in my own film. Below is an example of Scorsese’s work that I found influential, it’s a short film called The Big Shave. What I found so interesting about this short was how effective and atmospheric it was, without using any dialogue. I found it really difficult to watch as the man shaving his face kept cutting himself. The fact that Scorsese is able to create something so simplistic, yet so effective, is very admirable. In The Big Shave I was most inspired by the variety of close-up shots Scorsese used, they successfully created tension regarding what was going to happen when the man started to shave. This tension building effect is perfect for my film Eli, and the reason I decided to use extreme close-ups at the beginning to introduce the idea of tension, and the foreboding that something bad was potentially going to happen.
Satyajit Ray is an Indian filmmaker, widely regarded as one of the greatest filmmakers of the 20th century. When looking into some of Ray’s films I came across his short film Two (1964) The short film shows an encounter between a child of a rich family and a street child, through the rich kid’s window. The film is made without any dialogue and displays attempts of One-upmanship between kids in their successive display of their toys. The film portrays the child-rivalry with the help of world of noise and that of music.
What I really like about Two is the way in which Ray has chosen to not include any dialogue. I think it really adds tension between the two boys, instead of having them squabbling with words, he has chosen to have them compete through showing off the toys they both have, which is a really clever means of expression. Much of the time dialogue can be too obvious, but Ray’s work is ambiguous leaving the audience to ponder the meaning behind it themselves. In my film Eli, I have chosen to include dialogue, but very minimal dialogue, and rather than the dialogue painting a story for the audience, it’s left very ambiguous. The dialogue is full of subtext, to minimise the audiences full understanding on what is going on until the end of the film.
I really admire Danny Boyle as a filmmaker so I thought that this video of him explaining his directing style would be really helpful and inspiring for my own director techniques.
One of my favourite Danny Boyle films is Train Spotting (1996). I really like the way Boyle presents dark humour in Train Spotting. One of the scenes that I found most influential was the bar scene.
While the obvious theme of violence presented throughout this scene was very prominent, the thing I found most inspiring was the way the character Begbie, manages to capture the undivided attention of all the other characters through his use of dialogue. I found this particularly influential when thinking about how to give my actors direction when shooting scenes with significant dialogue, the way that Boyle has all the characters intently focused on Begbie as he recalls a story, works very well in making the audience focused on Begbie’s story as well. Effectively the audience are made to believe that whatever Begbie is saying is of some significance from the way the people around him listen eagerly. In this scene there isn’t much dialogue from any other characters, which is a result of Begbie being a psychopath, and nobody wants to interrupt him. However, in Eli there’s a much more evident turn-taking happening in the dialogue between Eli and Imelda. When I initially wrote the script for Eli, I chose to have the opening sequence dominated by dialogue from Imelda, this was inspired by the style used by Boyle in this bar scene. I wanted Imelda to dominate the conversation, even though Eli is presented as the main character.
While there are a number of Coen Brothers films that I find influential such as Fargo (1996) and Barton Fink (1991), one of my favourite Coen Brothers film is Bad Santa (2003). While Bad Santa is a dark comedy, encompassing a very different theme than my film Eli, there are some techniques the Coen Brothers use which I found influenced the style I wanted to achieve through my own directing.
In this scene from Bad Santa, I particularly like the use of reaction shots between the two characters having an argument. The camera switches angles getting reaction shots of each character as they get more and more wound up by the argument which works really well in conveying the clear angst between the characters. In Eli, why the characters do not argue, they are having a conversation under intense circumstances, therefore the reaction of each character is very important. The way in which the character react could lead the audience to believe either or both of them are going to commit suicide, which is integral to the storyline.
I chose to use these mid-shot reaction shots of the characters in Eli, alike the reaction shots used in Bad Santa as I feel it successfully creates a tension for the audience. Emphasising that the characters are both unsettled.
The most prominent attributes about Nolan’s directing is his ability to tell a story from any point in time, rather than merely chronologically, from beginning to end. Here are some examples where he doesn’t tell his stories linearly:
Memento = The opening sequence is the last scene played backwards
Insomnia = Flashback clip
Batman Begins = Flashback to childhood
The Prestige = The first scene in the film is also the last one
Dark Knight = Flashback to robbery mentioned at end of Batman Begins
Inception = Flashforward to end of film
The Dark Knight Rises = Flash back to event that occurred before main storyline starts
Interstellar = Flash forward to clips of an interview, then clip of flashback/dream.
One of my favourite Christopher Nolan films is Inception (2010). What I found particularly inspiring about Inception is the way in which the film presents dreams as reality. I found this inspiring when thinking about how I wanted to reveal to the audience that Imelda doesn’t actually exist in Eli . While Nolan’s films are very complex, the complexity of the storyline’s are presented in a way that is easy to understand. In the ending of Inception I was most inspired by the ambiguity in which Nolan ends the film. The protagonist of the film, Dom Cobb – played by Leonardo Dicaprio, tests reality by using his totem which is a spinning top that spins indefinitely in a dream world. Cobb ignores the Totum that appears to indefinitely spin. This ending suggests that Cobb is actually in a dream world rather than reality, but choses to ignore it because he’s happier in the dream world where he is reunited with his children, the fact that the audience don’t see the Totum fall, but equally don’t stay in the room to watch it continuously spin, leaves the ending very ambiguous and down to the interpretation of the audience. In my film Eli, I tried to create a similar sense of ambiguity at the end, where there is no definitive answer as to whether Imelda really exists or not.
The first Carol Morley film I saw was her 2010 film Edge, which I only came across because one of the lecturers from the university had seen our posters around university with the same title and location (Beachy Head) as Morley’s film, and notified us that we wouldn’t be able to keep our desired title. Not only was Morley’s film very similar to mine in the sense that it was shot at Beachy Head and tackled the subject matter of suicide, Morley used many other techniques that I found inspiring for the process of directing my film. The storyline of Morley’s film was really influential, the concept of strangers meeting at a time of despair, and building friendships based on unconventional circumstances. While my film is short and therefore the build up of the friendship between my two characters cannot be conveyed, alike Morley does in Edge, I was inspired by the way in which Morley’s characters have small talk when they first meet one another. There’s something very awkward about strangers having a conversation, which is compelling to watch. I also found Morely’s use of dark humour very effective, while the topic of suicide is a very serious one, it breaks the tension a bit by including some dark humour, she successful created a film with the mood of isolation and misery, juxtaposed with elements of humour. The dark humour presented in Morley’s film consists of one of the characters asking the cleaner working at the hotel to assist her in her suicide, one scene the maid is smothering the woman, to which the woman states “You’re not even trying.” I wanted to include less obvious dark humour in Eli, due to the length of the film being concise. I chose to do so by including the character Imelda ask Eli, “Do you want to go first or shall I?”, the fact that this old woman is being very matter-of-fact about the idea of jumping off a cliff to her near death has tones of dark humour.