The 1964 short film, ‘From a Distant Glaze’ (directed by Jean Ravel, picture by Chris Marker and Pierre Lhomme, words by Louis Aragon, narrated by Jean Negroni and music by Michel Legrand) observes publics going about their general business in a busy, city environment.
The opening scene establishes an observational feel to the film with extreme close ups and close up camera shots amongst bustling streets. The camera intimately follows subjects through these congested, urban spaces. Narration enters shortly into the film – giving the camera technique substance and provides the film with an existential notion. We then know that it is the narrator’s observation and that he is focusing on individuals in the street. Effectively, the voice over foreshadows what is to be seen and determines the film’s theme.
The camerawork used throughout the film directs the viewer to certain items or a particular person seen on the street through swift camera movements. The camera technique used to do this is often a pan across, a pan upward or an extreme close up. Ultimately, the camera technique is important to the overall film as it gives the film an observation touch as well as insight into what the film is about.
The audio utilized and applied in the excerpt provided from Anna Broinowski’s 2007 exploratory documentary titled Forbidden Lies, features a music track, sound effects, sounds recorded with a boom and a mixer whist capturing the footage along with additional sounds that were potentially recorded and applied to the documentary. The film also comprises of editing techniques, such as an audio lead or in editing terms, a ‘J cut’, layering audio tracks as well as muting audio footage to enhance the sound that is layered over the footage.
The first scene shown in the excerpt has applied non-diegetic sound, making the scene feel like a bit of a dreamscape (perhaps how Broinowski feel’s about the book under question). To assist this approach, a music track plays across the footage while the original sound of the footage has been muted. The sound affects of birds chirping occur as well as a dazzling sound, which is combined with a swirl transition into the next scene. The sound affects are nothing particularly fancy and could most likely be sourced online and are often available for free from sound affects websites.
Particular sounds have been recorded perhaps with a zoom recorder or sourced from established sound affects to draw attention to elements within the documentary that assist the narrative. These sounds are applied to be focal sounds and are used for the instances of car wheels on a dirt road, a burka being thrown and taken away by the wind and footsteps trekking through a windy desert.
Screen shot taken from Forbidden Lies
The editing techniques employed and sourced for the documentary perhaps draw the audience’s attention to the fantastical nature of Forbidden Lies as well as take the audience back into reality. At the end of the opening scene, a woman is walking through a windy desert when the sound of Broinowski slamming the subject’s book down on a table is layered with the footage. The sound of the book being slammed is immediately followed by a sound affect of what appears to be sand being broken down (or maybe foreseeing what is to ecome of the subject in question). There are a couple of ways to achieve this in the editing process, however the most logical way that I can think of is applying a J cut, layering the sound affect and lowering the J track’s volume to allow for the sound affect to be of focus. A J cut is often used as an editing tactic to assist with the transitions between scenes however in this instance, the sound of a book slamming as well as the chosen sound affect grabs the viewers attention and perhaps snaps them out of the dream-like introduction and into the theme of the documentary.
Wake in Fright is a surreal tale about a British school teacher, John Grant (Gary Bond) who pursues one journey however a momentous turn of events finds John taking another – one of alcohol enthused mate ship, ruthless gambling, shameless blood shed and obscure sexuality all amongst an extreme Australian outback setting. The film is directed by Canadian Director, Ted Kothcheff and is based on the novel of the same name by renowned Australian journalist and writer, Kenneth Cook. The film was produced in Australia in 1970 and was screened at Carnes film festival in 1971, where Ted Kotcheff received a Golden Palm Nomination. However, the film went unseen for decades as the master negative was deemed missing. After an extensive search, the film canister was located by the film’s Editor, Anthony Buckely, in a shipping container in Pittsburough labeled ‘for destruction’. Similar to the film‘s passage, the central character, John Grant, embarks on a rampant journey nearing destruction however discovers himself in the process.
The film is portrayed in John Grant’s viewpoint, showing his perception of superiority and disdain for the drinking infused, malicious culture that he is surrounded by. With the school year finished, John sets upon his destination to Sydney to be with his girlfriend for six weeks over the holiday period. Departing the small town, Taboonda, John starts his journey to Sydney anticipating an over night layover in Bundunyabba, known to the locals as ‘The Yabba’. Upon boarding the train to Bundunyabba, a passenger offers John a beer, where he strictly refuses the offer. Instead, John envisions himself at the beach with his girlfriend, resting a beer against her bare, wet stomach.
John arrives at ‘The Yabba’ and indulges in the local culture of excessive beer drinking and gambling. In a drastic moment to free himself from his bond placed with the education board, John gambles all of his money away playing two-up. With only one dollar left to his name, John finds himself trapped and desperate – left to rely on the hospitality of the locals he loathes. Reluctently immersing himself further into the culture of the Australian outback, John never reaches the shores of Sydney and embarks on a nightmare adventure fueled with ruthless drinking, aimless bloodshed and despair. However, as a result of John’s exploitations, he experiences a life-changing journey of self-discovery.
John returns on the train from ‘The Yabba’ where a passenger again offers him a beer. In contrary to the original scene, John eagerly accepts the beer. The scene shows an evident change in character as well as openness to the outback culture he has experienced. Warwick Frosts argues in his research paper ‘Life Changing Experience, Film and Tourism in the Australian Outback’, that tourists embarking on a journey in the outback undergo an exceptional ‘life changing experience’. Stating that the Australian outback is closely aligned with identity, Frost claims, “Something happens to the tourist in the outback and they are changed forever” (714).
Frost states that in the conclusion of Wake in Fright, John has achieved a resolution and appears happier with his life (717). Frost notes that in most of films researched, the tourist experiences a positive change (714). However, the viewer may argue whether John’s change in character is of a positive or negative affect. On one side, he appears happier, has lost his superiority complex and seems confortable in his surroundings. However, it is notable that John has conformed to the Australian outback culture – one that has been shown in John’s perception in all its guts and glory.
John’s act of rage towards a driver in the film shows John’s extreme dismay for the outback culture. The driver has given John a lift to Silverton Pub and says “What’s wrong with you, you bastard? Why won’t you come have a drink with me? I just brought you 50 miles and you won’t have a drink with me?” An exhausted John lashes out in furry “What’s the matter with you people, eh? You sponge, you burn your house down, murder your wife, rape your child – that’s all right. But not have a drink with you – a flaming bloody drink, that’s a criminal offence, that’s the end of the world”. John’s hatred of the outback culture makes the viewer further consider the affects of his ‘life changing experience’. However, regardless of how the resolution may reside with viewer, John’s actions on the train ride home is a significant key moment within the narration as well as an identifiable reoccurring element within Australian outback films.
Wake in Fright, 2009. [DVD] Ted Kothcheff , Australia: National Film and Sound Archive & Archive and AtLab Deluxe.
Frost, W, 2010. Life Changing Experiences: Film and Tourists in the Australian Outback . Annals of Tourism Research, No.37/ Vol 3, 707-726.