The framing of Liverpool 2008 is dramatically different from Alonso’s Los Muertos 2004
From an Andrew Schenker’s reviewYou know the drill: the filmmaker sets his camera at a certain distance from his impassive protagonist and observes him enacting the minutiae of daily life. No music is there to cue the viewer’s emotions and we’re never invited into the character’s headspace. ……..Such works encourage the viewer to adjust his mental rhythm to the pace of the picture, to recalibrate his body’s clock to the film’s tempo. Finally, this long-take approach promotes an appreciation of composition for its own sake, focusing audience attention for extended periods of time on a series of static framings. …But how does such an aesthetic, based as it is on the elimination of traditional narrative and character cues, produce sufficient meaning to make the project something more than an exercise in style?For most of the picture’s running time, these compositions center on Farrel…..
And there it is: the center-of-influence is center frame.
Liverpool’s protagonist, Farrel, is center frame almost the entire film. One scene where he isn’t center frame is at the strip club, but there we see the shadow of the woman cast on the wall next to Farrel.
Artists reveal conflict in the compositional structure of an image by way of power relationships between objects; those power relationships become a visual allegory. The allegory is depicted by three types of image structure: resolution integrates the image around a center-of-influence; suspension denies the influence of a center; expression does not integrate the center-of-influence.
The basis to the theory that a visual allegory expresses, resolves, or suspends conflict can be found in Rudolf Arnheim’s The Power of the Center: A Study of Composition in the Visual Arts. (1982) Berkeley: University of California Press.
By way of the visual allegory, the film’s framing is saying that Farrel is an object of conflict or in conflict since film possess a temporal element. For the most part the framing is expressing conflict until the time Farrel vanishes and different composition structures emerge – except for one post-Farrel frame depicting Farrel’s daughter, Analia. She is standing center frame but she shares this space, leaning against a tree trunk. We know by the relationship between the two objects, that she is dependent and needs support.
In the final scene, she struggles to understand what he has left to her. Her dependency is her father’s legacy.
Most films find the protagonist (center-of-influence) in conflict and resolve that conflict for the happy ending or alternatively suspend conflict. In Liverpool, the conflict relating to the protagonist is only expressed and it is done visually by way of framing Farrel as an unintegrated center-of-influence.
some people can write about anything.
And I thank Robert for writing about this.
Thank you again Robert for exploring the framing of Alonso’s works. It is very interesting how the framing is drastically different in Liverpool even though one could easily draw connections between its main character and the main character in Los Muertos. Both are travelling home. Both are less-than-stellar human beings. The main difference I could draw is that Farrel is more equal to his surroundings than Vargas was to nature. I would suspect this is a major reason behind the difference in framing.
I’m interested in exploring this topic in more detail so I’ve ordered copies of Alonso’s films on DVD. I’ll try to get back to this thread. Thanks for this, Robert.