“The Embrace” – idea for a short film using ‘free indirect discourse’

“The Embrace” – idea for a short film using ‘free indirect discourse’

This will all need to change radically! – but for now here is an idea which combines something of the neorealist styles of Andrea Arnold with the formalist approaches of Bergman or Godard. 


A university security guard’s grip on reality begins to slip as he becomes increasingly convinced that a young lecturer is behaving suspiciously and needs to be brought to justice.


“The Embrace” is a psychological thriller in the  manner of “Mulholland Drive” or “The Machinist”.



The Embrace will be shot on campus at Hertfordshire University.

Visual Style 

The film will have a mosaic-like structure made up of moments of extreme realism contrasted with lyrical dream-like sequences something similar to the slow motion scenes from “In The Mood For Love” (2000). As the film progresses the dreamlike moments take on a darker aspect reflecting the fracturing thoughts of the protagonists psyche.

The visual influences for this film sitting somewhere between Goddard’s “Alphaville” and Richard Ayoade’s “The Double”.

Key Concept: ‘Free Indirect Discourse’

The main idea behind the script is to resurrect a style of voice-over as employed by filmmakers such as L. Bresson and  E. Rohmel and their use of a literary technique called “free indirect discourse”. The use of free indirect discourse deliberately creates ambiguity making it difficult to say who is telling the story  – an objective narrator, the film maker or the main protagonist, and is a device I intend to use to reflect the increasingly unstable psyche of my main protagonist. As well as this I will also  be employing a more familiar voice-over technique called, “the unreliable narrator”, which (think;  Lolita or Catcher In the Rye) I will use to create a deliberate tension between what the audience sees and what the protagonist tells us we should be seeing.

Main Characters

Paul Chambers:

A security guard in his mid 30’s. Handsome and strong but in a place/world where his strength and good looks are entirely redundant and unnoticed. Has worked as a security guard with the university for around 2 years but in that time hasn’t managed to form any meaningful relationships. Has a history of undiagnosed and untreated psychological problems. Ex-football supporter.

Ben Wright:

A 25 year old university lecturer, currently studying for a PhD in Humanities. Sociable and well-spoken,  has a tendency to cut corners and take liberties when it comes to abiding by university authority (steals photocopy paper, uses milk from the cafeteria for his breakfast cereal).


A pretty, 20 year old Bulgarian barista, working in the university’s coffee  shop.

Okwute & Nnaji: 

Nigerian security staff.

Treatment: The Embrace

Please note: The sequence of events in the treatment  will definitely need to be re-thought. 

The film opens in a university common area crowded with talkative young students. The common  area spills out into a smart new cafe space where IVANA, a pretty Bulgarian barista, is being shown how to serve snacks and use the till by an older English lady, STACEY.  As Ivana struggles to work the till her movements are accompanied by a man’s voice which talks about her simple, unaffected beauty.

At first we don’t know who these words belong to until we see, waiting in the queue, the well-built security guard, PAUL CHAMBERS, watching Ivana as she struggles to make a sale on the till. The voice-over ends abruptly as Stacey, the older lady, curtly asks Paul if he is ready to order.  Paul blurts out his order in coarse North London dialect.

Sometime later we see Paul as he sits and eats his sandwiches in the small security guard offices. Two Nigerian security men talk to each other in their native tongue paying no attention to Paul.

Paul walks through the university’s crowded public spaces unnoticed by the young students.

We see him in standing in an empty stairwell checking the loosely fitting metal handrail.

Hours later, Paul reenters the cafe to find that Stacey is packing her bag to go, leaving Ivana to close up alone. Paul buys a drink from Stacey before sitting at the back of the room watching as Ivana wipes the white tabletops in the cafe as she closes shop.

As the scene progresses the everyday activity of wiping tables takes on an almost dreamlike quality as Paul watches Ivana’s graceful movements. As he does so, the voice-over describes how Paul is able to translate her movements,  which, he feels, are signals aimed directly at him. Music plays as Paul’s anticipation builds and Ivana moves from table to table towards the one he is sitting at.

Just as Ivana reaches Paul’s table the mood of anticipation changes however, when BEN WRIGHT, (the same man who was in the queue earlier that morning) a well-spoken young lecturer enters the room asking if it is too late to buy a coffee. Ivana, stops wiping the tables and offers Ben a free filter coffee from the cafetiere. Ben pours milk into his drink, talking freely with Ivana, offering to help her with her poor English – to which she politely declines.

The next day we see Paul as he stands in the cafe area looking over to where Ben is sitting with a a female lecturer. After a few moments Ben gets up and makes his way towards the cafe area, passing Paul on his way. As he does so the security guard makes a point of reading Ben’s name tag as once more we hear the familiar voice-over.

This time, however, the voice suggests that something about the lecturer isn’t quite right – something that Paul can’t put his finger on. The scene ends as we see Ben once more talking casually with the delightful Ivana. Paul writes down Ben’s name down in a small black diary – circling it three times.

Some days later we see Ben enter the cafe area with a small box hidden in his bag as he surreptitiously pours his own cereal into a bowl, before pouring milk over the cereal from the milk container labelled ‘for drinks only’. This is the moment of confirmation Paul has been waiting for, as once more the voice-over speaks about the lecturer’s offence – about how the milk was clearly meant for drinks and not cereal – turning a small crime into something much more serious.

Ivana comes out to see Ben, who moves the cereal bowl out of sight guiltily. She tells Ben that she would like to take him up on his offer of language coaching.

Paul is very worried about the corrupting presence that the clearly criminal humanities lecturer might have upon the innocent Bulgarian girl, starting to investigate the lecturer in earnest – finding out which part of the university he teaches in, even going so far as to check the tyres of Ben’s car in the staff carpark.

Over the next few days Paul shadows Ben like a private detective, listing all his misdemeanours: watching as Ben steals a packet of paper from the staff room photocopier – or uses a door marked “no exit” – or flirts with his pretty female students – watching as Ben and Ivana sit together laughing in the cafe area, all the times his thoughts (the voice over) growing steadily darker and more concerned for the girl’s safety.

Finally we see Ben enter a toilet cubicle only to see Paul in the cubicle adjacent to it  (the voice over telling us) that Paul is convinced that Ben is using his smart phone to access pornographic images of the worst and most degrading nature – (even though this is just speculation).

After this, Paul follows Ben from the toilet knowing that he must act swiftly if he is to bring the felon to justice. As he follows Ben, though, Paul suddenly hears strange folk music playing and as he looks through the door into the cafeteria he watches in amazement as Ivana performs a suggestive but beautiful Bulgarian folk dance to haunting music, before prostrating herself at Ivan’s feet, banging her chest in a strange ritual of surrender.

By now it is hard to say what is real and what is illusion – but one thing is clear,  which is that Paul knows he must save Imogen from Ben. This he does by breaking the fire bell – setting off the alarm, just as the two are about to seal their love with a  kiss.

As Ben goes to fetch his coat and bag, Paul catches the unsuspecting lecturer by the hand, pushing him into the same deserted stairwell we saw Paul in earlier. Ben is completely shocked as Paul advances down the steps towards the frightened lecturer, snatching up the broken handrail as he descends. As the two descend the steps the voice-over now speaks about the similarity between the two men and how, under different circumstances, their roles might have been reversed – how Paul might have been important.

At the bottom of the stairs Ben shields his face as Paul lifts the metal rod to strike but instead lets the pole slip from his hand where it clatters to the floor. The voice-over is almost  incomprehensible

now, stating that Paul finally understands with complete clarity what he must do to resolve the situation.

Ben recoils in horror as Paul puts his arms around him holding him tighter and tighter until both men’s faces are red. At this point something entirely surreal happens (we are now trapped inside the mind of a mad man) and we see images of lights coalescing – or rivers flowing into each other – as the two men become one. When the sequence comes to an end we see that Ben is standing alone and that Paul is nowhere to be seen.

Ben walks back towards Ivana who is waiting outside, the fire bell still ringing quietly in the distance. Ben stands with her and holds her hand. They kiss, as the voice-over speaks out for the last time, saying something profound (but I can’t think what exactly, just yet).


I have already started to talk to actors about possible castings and have uploaded a speculative  advert to casting-call-pro and shooting people.


Will need a good DOP for some of the sequences but am happy to film other sequences myself. Was planning to shoot the film using the new Blackmagic Design Cinema Camera which is small an unobtrusive but have recently been using the iPhone 6, which can film in 4K and has a very nice set of lenses including an anamorphic. As well as this the iPhone 6 has very nice hand held gimbal which will be very useful for some of the action shots. Will also need a sound recordist and a lighting assistant/runner.

Audience and Festivals: 

Using a voice over is clearly a gamble but I am interested to see if I can make the unusual “free indirect discourse” device work. If I can do this I think the film will have a very unusual psychological dimension which might make it popular at thriller/horror festivals such as Michigan’s Thriller-Chiller festival, or Los Angeles Thriller Festival.

A Poetics of Free Indirect Discourse in Narrative Film

A Poetics of Free Indirect Discourse in Narrative Film

I have been following up my last blog on spiritual themes in film by reading  Paolo Pasolini’s paper “The “Cinema of Poetry” (1965), in which he talks about a literary device called ‘free indirect speech’, which, he claims, can add a subjective dimension to film by creating ambiguity around whose cinematic perspective a film is depicting.

Pasolini describes ‘free indirect speech’ as being – “the immersion of the filmmaker in the mind of the character and then the adoption on the part of the filmmaker, not only of the psychology of his character, but also of his language” (2005: 175).

What Pasolini seems to be suggesting here is that the subjectivity of the character in a film is not just given priority, as it is by the use of  ‘voice-over’ –  but that by using ‘free indirect discourse’ the character’s psychology is allowed to extend beyond what he/she says until the images – and ultimately the film itself -has become an extension of the mental projections of the character’s own thinking.

In his analysis of Pasolini’s paper , Heinemann (2012) makes the following observation about the destabilising nature these shifts in perspective can have – “by constantly shifting relationship with the narrative, at one moment encouraging an immersion in the illusionistic unfolding of the plot, the next forcing an awareness of its formal properties, including the partiality and artifice inherent in narrative activity itself.” He goes on to say that, “It is a function of the free indirect speech-act to problematise viewer identification, dividing the impulse between the film’s narration and the character’s narration through generating ambiguity regarding the narrative point of view. Free indirect speech reinforces this ambiguity through the formal opposition it gives rise to – between picture and sound, image and voice – contributing to a polyphonic, multivalent cinema.”

Pasolini talks about this development of a new cinematic language in semiotic terms stating that a  new “technico-stylistic tradition is in the process of being formed: that is, a cinema language of poetry. This language tends to appear henceforth as diachronical in relation to narrative cinema language: a diachronism which is destined to be emphasized increasingly, as happens in literary systems.”

Heinemann describes the way this deliberately disorientating effect is used cinematically  by citing a voice-over narration taken from Rohmer’s film, “Claire’s Knee” (1970) in which the filmmaker uses voiceover to privilege the complexity of the inner life of the film’s character over the certitude of ocular proof provided by the footage. This contrast between twhat the film shows us,  as the protagonist Jerome touches the knee of the girl he desires, and the lengthy account of Jerome’s inner observations, creates a strangely ambiguous mood as the narrator’s subjectivity starts to colour the neutrality of the formerly objective camera’s gaze.

Here is the text from the movie –

She sat facing me, one leg outstretched, the other bent. Her knee was sharp, narrow, smooth, delicate, within reach. Within reach of my hand. My arm was positioned in such a way that I only had to extend it to touch her knee. Touching her knee was the most extravagant thing, the one thing not to do, and at the same time the easiest. Even as I realised how easy, how simple the gesture was, I also felt it was impossible. As if you’re on the edge of a cliff, only one step away, but even if you want to jump, you can’t.

Ghaffary, M., & Nojoumian, A. A. in their journal aritcle,  “A Poetics of Free Indirect Discourse in Narrative Film (2013) go on to state that “where objectivity and subjectivity or narration / external focalisation and internal focalization merge together and the narrative becomes ambiguous from this viewpoint”, that such moments in a film’s construction can best be considered moments of free indirect discourse. They then go on to list devices such as “voice-over narration, sound perspective, sound bridge, music, POV structure, eye-line match, shot / reverse shot, flash frames, freeze or still frames, slow motion, repetition of particular images, flashback, camera movement, superimposition, matte shot, snorri-cam, and double exposure” that can be used as tools to create such ambiguities. By so saying underscoring Pasolini’s notion of free indirect discourse as a tool of cinematic poetry.

Anyway, I am still processing what I have read but have lots of ideas for possible film scenarios popping into my head as a result of reading this interesting paper.

I will sign off with a list of effects that can be achieved by using FREE INDIRECT DISCOURSE which might be useful in my future film (taken from Ghaffary & Nojoumian’s paper – (2013))

8 functions of free indirect discourse in film:

1) it is a device for controlling the degree of distance between the FCD and the character:

2) it can either raise empathy in the reader / FCD for the character or lead to the ironic repudiation of the character by the FCD

3) Dramatic irony –

4) it can cause “irony of register” (McHale, “Free Indirect Discourse” 208) (the association of the objective or formal style of the total narrative and the semi-subjective style of the FID sequences);

5) it represents internal focalization (focus) or the presentation of the focalized from within;

6) it is a good technique for representating stream of consciousness (Banfield 29; McHale, “Free Indirect Discourse” 209 & “Speech Representation” 437; Rimmon-Kenan 115; Jahn, Narratology N8.9.) (Pasolini sees FID as a useful technique for rendering a character’s stream of consciousness in film, though he does not mention the term “stream of consciousness” [554]);

7) it suggests polyvocality or polyphony (the FCD’s and the character’s voices directly interact with each other, without either of them being dominant) (McHale, “Free Indirect Discourse” 212; Rimmon-Kenan 117);

8) it enhances a film’s power of defamiliarization; FID adds to “the semantic density” of the cinematic narrative (Rimmon-Kenan 115).

Here is an example of how free indirect discourse relates to the more typical – direct and indirect literary devices. (see more on FIS here)

Examples of direct, indirect, and free indirect speech:

Quoted or direct speech:
He laid down his bundle and thought of his misfortune. “And just what pleasure have I found, since I came into this world?” he asked.

• Reported or normal indirect speech:
He laid down his bundle and thought of his misfortune. He asked himself what pleasure he had found since he came into the world.

• Free indirect speech:
He laid down his bundle and thought of his misfortune. And just what pleasure had he found, since he came into this world?

The following is a quotation cribbed from James Joyce’s,  “Portrait Of The Artist As A Young Man.”

The muddy streets were gay. He strode homeward, conscious of an invisible grace pervading and making light his limbs. In spite of all he had done it. He had confessed and God had pardoned him. His soul was made fair and holy once more, holy and happy. It would be beautiful to die if God so willed. It was beautiful to live in grace a life of peace and virtue and forbearance with others.


Pasolini, P.P. (1965)  ‘The “Cinema of Poetry.”’ Heretical Empiricism. Trans. BenLawton and Louise K. Barnett. Washington: New Academia, 2005. 167-186.

JOYCE, J. (1964). A portrait of the artist as a young man. New York, Viking Press.

Heinemann, D. (2012) ‘The creative voice: Free indirect speech in the cinema of Rohmer and Bresson’, The New Soundtrack, 2(1), pp. 39–49. doi: 10.3366/sound.2012.0024.

Ghaffary, M., & Nojoumian, A. A. (2013). A Poetics of Free Indirect Discourse in Narrative Film. Special Issue on Performance Studies, 269.

“Film Is A Dream – But Whose?”

“Film Is A Dream – But Whose?”

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Two fascinating books which I have been reading, and which have been helping me define new approaches to the kind of films I want to make are – P. Schrader’s (the screenwriter of ‘Taxi Driver’ 1976) “Transcendental Style” (1972) and B. Kawin’s “Mindscreen” (1978). Both books inhabit similar areas of film theory, namely the place where subjectivity and objectivity are blurred – where film  moves from being a third person, objective ‘viewer of events’ – to being something much more opaque and ambiguous; existing somewhere between these inner and outer worlds.

Both writers build their theories around their ‘close reading’ of the work of famous directors, with Kawin focusing on the work of Bergman & Godard – and Schrader on Japanese filmmaker Ozu, as well as Bresson and Dreyer.

Besides being extremely interesting books (which I fully intend to discuss in later blogs) what really interests about their shared notion of ‘first-person’ film (something similar to the human mind),  has been how these  concepts have helped me gain a better understanding of one of my own films called “Naked Flame”, which  I posted in my 2nd blog entry back in October 2015.

As I describe in my earlier blog (see here), ‘Naked Flame’ was a piece of work of which I was particularly proud, but which had become something of an enigma. I say this, as after making the film I could never fully understand how I had created it, or even what it was about the film that was so interesting to me. After reading the aforementioned books, however, especially  Kawin’s (1976) analysis of Bergman’s “Persona”  (P. 103-172), I now see that “Naked Flame” creates a ‘dream-space’ something akin to the one in Bergman’s “Persona”. This dream-like, poetically-structured style of film  being nicely summarised by Kawin in a quote taken from the introduction to  “Mindscreen” (1978) (p-3)  in which he says,  “Film is a dream – but whose?”.

I won’t attempt a full analysis of the books here (will be writing more about them later) and instead am going to sit “Naked Flame” and Bergman’s “Persona” alongside each other in the hope that by cross referring between the two I can gain a clearer understanding of cinema as ‘dream-space’, or,  as Kawin describes it – “Mindscreen”.


Schrader, P. (1972). Transcendental Style in Film: Ozu, Bresson, Dreyer. Da Capo Press.

Kawin, B. F. (1978). Mindscreen: Bergman, Godard, and first-person film. Princeton Paperback.

Deeper Themes…

Deeper Themes…

Have been doing some major rethinking regarding the kind of film I want to make, largely due to the restrictions I felt were imposing themselves as I sat down to  consider narrative structures for my improvised film ideas.

What I think  has occurred to me, over the last week or so, is how my current obsession with capturing realistic performances may be creating a filmic framework that could deny me access to a more poetic cinematic language that I have always admired in filmmakers such as Federico Fellini, Pasolini, Bergman. So, while I still want to retain the realist devices used by Mike Leigh, Shane Meadows, Skandar Copti, Andrea Arnold et al, I am now beginning to  see that a narrow neorealist approach to filmmaking may not be the best vehicle for me to explore my themes and interests.

Which are what? What are the themes that interest me? 

Well, at the risk of sounding deeply unfashionable (and opening myself up to flak from neo-atheists)  one of the main themes I would like to explore is that of spirituality. Not from an external sense, though, of holy books, dogma and rituals, but spirituality as seen from a more William Blake, Carl Jung ‘depth psychology sort of standpoint’ –  of the contrary states of deep inner isolation of the ego and of the bliss of connectivity.

The idea of satori or enlightenment also interests me and how these notions of connectivity, which were once valued by society,  are now in our outward-looking materialistic age, without value. How it is that someone with a ‘healthy soul’ can be seen as being without value in our world, while someone who is experiencing the most disconnected inner angst  –  but who has all the necessary external signifiers of wealth – can be seen to be successful.

I am also interested in the idea of exploring a feeling of disconnectedness that has bothered me my whole life. The idea that I am out of step with a deep level of being and (taking the notion further) how as a species we all seem to be prone to the same metaphysical sickness that isolates each of us from everyone and everything around us.

It is these subjective worlds and the dissonance between them and the everyday world we all share, that interests me. Not in isolation, though, but along with these other notions of realism I have been discussing in my earlier blogs. My problem, though, is how to access both these different aspects  of cinematic language – prose and poetry – without limiting myself to an ‘either/or’ position.

With these kind of questions in mind I have been reading a few, loosely connected articles which I will share with you as means of exploring some of these new thoughts as they occur to me.

The first quote I use is taken from a paper written by Tarkovsky called “Sculpting in time: reflections on the cinema.”(1989)  in which he establishes the idea of a species of filmmaker/poets who transcends the objectivity of a filmed world by the power of their vision, stating that – “there are two basic categories of film directors. One consists of those who seek to imitate the world in which they live, the other of those who seek to create their own world. The second category contains the poets of cinema, Bresson, Dovzenko, Mizoguchi, Bergman, Buñuel and Kurosawa, the cinema’s most important names.”

A comment made by Federico Fellini in the book  “I, Fellini.” (2001) also reiterates this idea as he talks about a type of film existing across the three levels of being  – “on which our minds live: the past, the present, and the conditional – the realm of fantasy”

Again reiterating a similar concern, the french filmmaker E.Rohmer (1989) talks about how he wanted his sextet of films – called  “Six Moral Tales”, to “portray in film what seemed most alien to the medium – to express feelings buried deep in our consciousness.”

Reflections on my own film process… and how to explore deeper “inner” themes. 

I am beginning to see that a simple realistic approach to film  will not be sufficient for me to explore the spiritual themes I have mentioned above and with this in mind will be dedicating my next few blogs to understanding how the filmmakers I admire – such as, Fellini or Pasolini have done exaclty that.


Tarkovsky, A., & Hunter-Blair, K. (1989). Sculpting in time: reflections on the cinema. University of Texas Press.

Fellini, F., & Chandler, C. (2001). I, Fellini. Cooper Square Press.

Rohmer, E. (1989). The taste for beauty. Cambridge University Press.

Alternative Acting Methodologies.

Alternative Acting Methodologies.

My research into mainstream vs. alternative cinema has proven to be  very rewarding especially in regard to the way in which  film production and film product are inextricably linked and that how a film is made impacts greatly on the qualities of the final film  produced.

This observation seems especially applicable with regard to how actors are employed in the film production process and how the qualities of the resulting movies made can be greatly augmented when the rules which dictate the levels of involvement an actor may have in the creative process are redrawn to allow actors greater creative participation.

This is especially apposite when considering the work of the 3 filmmakers – Mike Leigh, Ulrich Seidel and Scanda Copti  all of whom  deviate, to varying degrees, away from the mainstream ‘intensified continuity style’ production processes i described in my earlier blog, Alternative Cinema vs. Mainstream Cinema.

First Acting Session – TOMORROW! 

Anyway, as I will be hosting my first acting session tomorrow it feels like the right time to start moving away from theoretical pondering into a more hands-on participatory approach to acting methodology. With this in mind  I would like to use this current blog  as a place to  outline the alternative approaches to acting, script writing and film production of Leigh, Seidel and Copti – and to start working out how I will use these techniques during tomorrow’s session.

So, in no particular order are a few notes on their approaches to preproduction and acting methodology. Starting with –

Mike Leigh…


The following chronological outline of Leigh’s approach to film development are taken from P. Clement’s book”The improvised play : the work of Mike Leigh” (1983) and R. Marchand’s publication (1985) Making Plays the Mike Leigh Way (1985).

1.Back Story Session – The first session is to establish existing characters with the Actors – Through one to one discussion, key character traits are communicated to the actor until an initial understanding of the character’s persona can be reached. It is important that the actors must not talk amongst themselves outside the workshops about character. Notes are taken and any new ideas and discoveries about character through these initial discussions are documented but set aside to avoid preempting the process.

2. Isolated Improvisations – Allow the actor to be the character without the pressure to perform – The actors are isolated in placed in a mundane setting with no direction for drama. This allows the playwright to witness their characters in moments outside of the story. Discussions are conducted with the actors during the exercise, concerning when the actor felt out of character. This is done to further the understanding of the character for both playwright and actor.” “Notes are taken on character as well as any impetus for potential conflict during group improvisations.”

3. Shared History Session – Establish shared history between characters by bringing selected members of the cast together. Cast members that share a joint history are brought together and through discussion of key shared moments in their past, a back-story is created. There should, however, be no discussion of emotion. Improvisations are conducted on this back-story, building a sense of familiarity and memory for the character. This again allows the playwright to experiment with story world moments that have occurred outside of the script. Discussions are conducted with the actors and notes are taken on potential story avenues as well as further impetus for conflict during the group improvisations.“

4. Group Improvisations – Improvisation exercises using all (and or different combinations) of the cast. This process is aimed at directly enhancing the plot and getting motivations of character clear and consistent. Actors perform improvisations in character with differing aims and goals given by the Playwright. For some cast members, this may be the first time they have met the other characters.” “Notes are taken by the Playwright to further establish character and any new potential scenes or storylines are documented for future drafts of the script.”

Ulrich Seidl…


The following outline of Seidl’s unique approach to filmmaking  is taken from the ICA’s website.

1. Documentary Style –  The working method is: Shoot fiction films in a documentary setting. So that unexpected moments of reality can meld with the fiction.

2. No Script –  There is no script in the traditional sense. The script consists of very precisely described scenes – but no dialogue.During shooting the script is continually modified and rewritten. Seidl: “I see the filmmaking as a process oriented by what has preceded. In that way the material we’ve shot always determines the further development of the story.”

3. Actors/non-actors – The cast consists of actors and non-actors. During casting equal consideration is given to professionals and non-professionals. Ideally the audience should not be able to say with certainty which roles are played by actors and which by non-actors.

4. No Script – The actors have no script on set.

5. Improvisation – Scenes and dialogue are improvised with the actors.

6. Shoot Chronologically – The film is shot chronologically, making it possible to continually adapt and develop scenes and dramatic threads. The ending is left open.

7. Real Locations – The film is shot in original locations.

8. No Non-Diegetic Music –  Music is present only when it is an integral component of a scene.

9. Open Working method – The “open working method” also applies to editing. Rushes are evaluated and discarded at the editing table.The film is rewritten at the editing table. Several extended phases of editing are needed to identify what is and isn’t possible for the film. In this way, to take the example of PARADISE Trilogy, what had been planned as a single film became three separate films, each of which stands on its own, but which can also be viewed together as a trilogy.

10. Seidl Tableau – In addition to the fiction scenes, so-called “Seidl tableaux” are filmed – precisely composed shots of people looking into the camera. The Seidl tableau (which was born in the director’s first short, “One Forty,” 1980) has become a trademark of Austrian film and is now used by other documentary and fiction film directors. On each of his films Ulrich Seidl shoots numerous tableaux, even though they may not make it into the final cut.

“At some point I‘ll make a tableaux-film with all the unused tableaux-scenes that were shot over the years in all of my films,” he says.

Scanda Copti

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The following outline of Copti’s  approach to filmmaking  is taken from the Filmlab website.

1. Finished Script – Unlike other forays into improvisation, SC often used a very precise screenplay and a well-constructed plot that demands precise emotional responses from its actors.

2. Surprise – Often uses the element of surprise to direct actors for certain scenes to get authentic emotional responses  – his actors often acting out his stories without being aware that they were being directed according to a pre-written script.

3. ‘Real Fiction’ –  The film  (Ajami – 2009)  is a work of fiction which shows “real” people acting in situations that are orchestrated by the directors, but very “real” to the performers, resulting in the actors projecting emotions on camera that they actually experienced at the time.

4. Workshops – This was achieved over specialized workshops, in which the actors were brought to each character’s emotional and psychological state as written in the script.

5. Psychological Profiles – In these workshops, the participants didn’t learn about text, goals, mise-en-scene or acting tricks. The focus was on the psychological journey of the characters through dramatic role-playing. Eventually, each actor deeply identified with his or her character as though the character was an extension of their own personality.

When the cameras started rolling, something magical happened – the actors forgot that they were in a fictional situation and their minds believed that what was happening was real.

Clements, P. (1983) The improvised play : the work of Mike Leigh, London: Methuen.

Marchand, R. (1985) Making Plays the Mike Leigh Way, Sydney; AFTRS.

Some Scenes From Godard’s “Alphaville” (1965)

Some Scenes From Godard’s “Alphaville” (1965)

Some images from one of my favourite Godard films, “Alphaville” (Godard  1965) which, despite being about a futuristic world where citizens are murdered for thinking illogically, was actually filmed without any special effects or futuristic sets, in real Parisian locations.

I find this transformative aspect of Godard’s imagination extremely intriguing and his confidence in undertaking such a project extremely heartening.

The following is one of my absolute favourite moments in all of cinema which is achieved with nothings more than creative backlighting, music and a voice over (not to mention Anna Karina)



Ruben Ostlund

Ruben Ostlund

Ruben Ostlund (b – 1974) is a Swedish filmmaker who has written and directed 3 feature films to date – Force Majeure (2014), Involuntary (2008) and Play (2011). His films have gained notoriety for their extremely long shot length and for their controversial content which,  the Guardian’s  (Thursday 9 April 2015 

I was drawn to Ostlund’s work after seeing his latest film “Force Majure” (2014) (you can read the full Guardian review here) which charts the disintegration of a wealthy Swedish couple’s marriage during their vacation in a plush ski lodge.  I was so impressed with the film, especially the nuanced performances he manages to capture from his cast and the slow ponderous way he uses the camera – which felt more akin to an instrument of analysis, unflinchingly scrutinising  the psychologies of his suffering subjects.

After seeing “Force Majure” I was interested to know more about Ostlund and his approach to filmmaking which seemed to be distinctly different to that of the mainstream industry. Here is Ostlund talking about his  motivating philosophy behind his films in an interview from filmmaker magazine. (The person he refers to in his comment being his long time production manager, Erik Hemmendorff.)

“We wanted to find a new way of expression that we thought other films were lacking. We also decided that if we have a film we are interested in, the production [schedule] should be made out of the content and not vice-versa. So often you have content, but then you just put it into the same production machinery as everything else, and what’s coming out of that production machinery in the end is quite similar to all the other films.

Here Ostlund seems to be articulating my own feelings about the generic nature of much of today’s film production machinery  and the homogenising and standardising effect it has on most film content. He goes on to outline his concern with the overly mechanistic approach to filmmaking (which has distinct parallels to the quotes from my 2nd blog post and Bordwell and Dawson’s critique of standard Hollywood practice – which led him to develop a totally different approach to shooting schedule, “I don’t want to put all my time when it comes to moviemaking to moving the camera around. Most productions are like, “Oh, we have to move the camera, we have to go to another angle,” and you don’t even have time to concentrate on the image and what’s happening in front of the camera.”

What I find interesting in this comment is Ostlund’s realisation of the need to question common filmmaking practice, almost as if there is, built into standard processes, an unreflective and unconscious aspect to film production methods that unwittingly delimits creative potentialities. Here Ostlund again reiterates this concern as he talks about scriptwriting ‘conventions’,  “I think one of the most boring things I know is to read scripts in American standard format.” … “I’d rather write in a more literary way, I guess, and really try to find out exactly what is interesting about the scene and try to highlight that. If there’s something that the characters are thinking about, I can write one page about what they are thinking just to try to get to know, what am I aiming for when I am shooting this scene?” Thinking about Ostlund’s comments are extremely enlightening and bring to mind an experience I had a few years ago when I read the script for Bruce Robinson’s  “Withnail and I”(1998) . The one thing that shocked me about the script was how off-topic it strayed, even breaking the cardinal rule of scriptwriting by including jokes that only the reader of the script could be privy to and that were never intended for inclusion in the movie. Ostlund’s scripts are also non conventional as can be seen in his cartoon book version of the script for Morce Majure here .

To conclude then I would like to show a clip from one of Ostland’s earlier films called “Autobiographical Scene Number 6882” (2005) in which the film maker thwarts the obsession with editing and camera positioning, opting instead for a fixed camera position, wide depth of field and extremely long shot length which gives room for a style of ensemble acting more akin to  Jean Renoir than to a film made this millennium.


Robinson, B. (1998). Withnail and I. Bloomsbury Publishing UK.