Food On Film – Assignment 3 (Blog Post 6)

In film, to make an argument without words requires the audience’s understanding that the filmmaker is saying something through the manipulation of what we see — that is, through editing, shot height, colour, pattern, timing, etc. It also requires a level of trust in the audience — that they are not ignorant and passive viewers, but are active enough to conjure meaning from the sequence of shots and come to a conclusion by themselves, without a voiceover, song lyrics, or commentary guiding them to it. Our Daily Bread (2005) on surface level might seem like it is letting an audience think whatever they want to think, but that decision to include ‘shot A’ and nothing else at that point in time means that there is still an intent to make the audience think about shot A for a particular reason. The audience’s response is not entirely subjective. The mise en scène is subtle in getting viewers to think about real life events and how their instincts and minds respond to what is on screen. That cognitive process is complex and different for every audience member, but it is important for us to pay attention to. For example, a central theme of our documentary is our subject’s kindness. We have heard stories about it through different people. Through silent b-roll of our subject interacting with her animals, caring for them, and painting her in a positive light, we encourage love and respect for animal life without needing to explicitly state this. Through the animals’ comfort in this exchange, we show this interaction and love is not an extreme in the Saunders household, it is the norm. Our timing and pace (cuts) will be slow and unhurried once we arrive at our subject’s home, for this serene feeling is how she makes everyone feel.

“The decision to use words minimally represents an attempt to match the film aesthetic to the footage, recognising that the audience’s focus on creating their own mental representations of the objects represented in the image is in itself the most meaningful goal.” (Hughes, 2013, p. 335).

The footage and sounds captured while making Our Daily Bread (2005) are mechanical and clinical, so the film’s entire aesthetic is thus mechanical and clinical to the point that it makes us uneasy. If our own footage of our subject’s farm home is capturing warmth, kindness, tranquility — then according to this statement we should aim to replicate these feelings through the film’s aesthetic. Ambient sounds that evoke these feelings in me are rain, forest sounds, and cats purring. Rather than commentary, these are the kinds of things we should capture and show to indirectly guide our audience to experience these feelings. I do agree that spectatorship and perception of our film is the most meaningful thing to focus on. However, I would suggest that the use of speech can also be powerful. While a basic instinct we have is to filter through long speech to be able to understand what is being said, words are how humans convey meaning. Our subject could tell us a story about a traumatic experience, or she could instead communicate her feelings about it through scars, artwork, etc. But why not a combination of both? In our film, we will find ourselves attempting a healthy combination of words with immense weight, and shooting images without words (movement, interaction, art, and still shots) to satisfy the understanding we now have that narration is useful, but not necessary to convey meaning or arguments.

Hughes, H 2013, ‘Arguments without words in Unser täglich Brot (Geyrhalter 2005)’, Continuum, vol. 27, no. 3, pp. 347-364, DOI: 10.1080/10304312.2013.772112

Unser täglich Brot 2005, motion picture, The ICA, Austria, directed by Nikolaus Geyrhalter.

Our Daily Bread (2005)

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