Thursday, December 04, 2008

English Language (with English Subtitles)

This film was originally brought up on the blog in the context of the DC shorts film festival. This was my favorite film of that showcase, and I wanted go back to it to look at it a bit more closely. As we worked through the semester, I kept coming back to this film because I kept seeing new ways to look at it.

My favorite part of the film was the role of the subtitles. At my first viewing, I was so intrigued by the way that they started as conventional subtitles, but then took on new roles like adding inner monologue, interacting directly with the characters, acting as advertising, and then taking on their usual role but with a twist. Recently, this struck me as I was writing my paper about shorts challenging the rules of traditional film. Whoever said the subtitles had to say exactly what the film says? Whoever said the subtitles can't be a character? Subtitles are something film viewers take for granted when another language is being spoken in a film. This film provides subtitles for the silent languages, like the audience's expectations and desires, the subtext, and the musicians that get hired to play in the film. Usually, they are a familiar friend (or foe) that we expect to follow a particular form. This film takes something as obligatory as subtitles and gives them new life as something totally unfamiliar. Shorts allow for this kind of experimentation, and in this case it worked to great effect. It took me by surprise at first, but after a while it didn't seem so strange. The subtitles added a refreshing sense of self-awareness of the frankly overused plot line the film followed. I love films that can make fun of themselves, so I loved when the subtitles mocked the atypical lover's silent argument in bed that I see so often in couple-centric movies lately. I wish more filmmakers could take a step back and make fun of themselves every once in a while.

Another interesting element of the film was the way it morphed in the middle into nothing other than a music video, as seen in the clip above. The song is called "Afterglow" by Barbarossa, as described by the subtitles. The subtitles take on a new role, providing information on the song title and the band and where it can be bought, just like the small blurb at the bottom of music videos at the beginning and end. In class we classified music videos as shorts, so if that's the case, this segment is like a short within a short (which I don't think we talked about). This segment could very easily stand on its own in my opinion, but also enhances the short as well. This brings up the question: Are shorts indivisible or can shorts have other shorts within them?

This film was my favorite because it was clever to my untrained eye at the time, but I like it so much more now because there is even more for me to see after a semester in this class, so in that sense, I consider it my quintessential.

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