Thursday, November 20, 2008
Jurassic Park (Sweded)
"Oh shit," I can hear you sighing to yourself upon discovering that there is such a thing as SwededFilms.com, "I am probably going to waste my entire night watching these things." Sorry in advance.
A sweded film is, according to Urban Dictionary, a "summarized recreation of popular pop-culture films using limited budgets and a camcorder." The swede phenomenon emerged as a tribute to Michel Gondry's 2008 classic (for in the viral age, the gestation period for determining what is to be "classic" is as brief as its viewer's attention spans) Be Kind Rewind. The movie is about two video store clerks (played Jack Black and Mos Def) who accidentally erase a bunch of videotapes and then re-film the lost movies using inventive -- if laughably cheap -- methods. Fans of the film began uploading their own swedes (named such because the characters lie to their customers and tell them the films were made in Sweden) to sites like Youtube, and shortly thereafter SwededFilms.com was born and the swede movement adopted a code of aesthetics all its own.
Swedes are fueled not by funding but by ingenuity and an embrace of the limitations of their form. A good swede wears its budget on its sleeve; it tries to find the cheapest and most amateurish-on-purpose way of filming things like special effects, iconic characters and memorable (and often convoluted) plots. As with any genre, conventions develop quickly. Extra points are always won for clumsy, a-capella renditions of famous instrumental soundtracks. And referring to characters by their actor's name is always good for a laugh (one of my favorite lines in the above Jurassic Park swede is "Jeff Goldblume, freeze!").
The best swedes are the ones that understand the fidgety attention span of the average Youtube enthusiast and cater to it with rapid-fire cutting. That's what I like so much about this particular Jurassic Park swede. It's not the only Jurassic Park swede on the internet, mind you (as evidenced by Youtube user MrFGC1's comment "Best Jurassic Park Sweded on youtube"; high praise indeed), but I think the editing in this one shows the filmmaker's intimate understanding of the form, which is critical to a successful swede. The editing is purposefully hyper-continuous, in that it assumes we are all so familiar with the plot of Jurassic Park that we could recite it in our sleep. The sweded Jurassic Park uses fragments of the intimately familiar and creates an entirely new text that makes our familiarity a punchline in itself. That we "get it" is contingent upon us being as familiar with Jurassic Park as the filmmakers are.
But the biggest joke of all, and one common of all swedes, is one about the relationship between shorts and features. Can we take a two-hour blockbuster and condense it into a short that lasts only 5 minutes? 3 minutes? 2? The shorter duration in which a swede can tell a complicated story, the funnier it is. True, every swede is innately indebted to the film that inspired it, so we could say that this is yet another way in which shorts are viewed as subordinate to features. But I actually see an up-with-shorts mentality present in the swede phenomenon: within less than a year of their existence, swedes have adopted a language and a code of content so much their own that I actually think you can watch a good swede and, without having seen the original feature, find tremendous enjoyment in it. It's an homage to the inherent brevity of the short. It's a celebration of montage in ways that Eisenstein never dreamed.