Friday, January 18, 2008

Cowboys, video and storytelling



So, I happened upon this video when I was procrastinating on finishing our Sunday section the other day. The Arcade Fire is one of my favorite bands, and I was kind of interested to see how the maker of the video was able to cross the song, "My Body is a Cage" with an old Western ("Once Upon a Time in the West").

How does this end up on the Storytelling blog you ask? Well, for one, I needed a good excuse to be watching YouTube when I was supposed to be finishing the Sunday section ... research seemed to be as good a reason as any. But secondly, it occurred to me as the video finished that I'd just watched a great example of narrative, with no "words" beside the lyrics to the song.

The camera sets up the mood with this really stark scene of two men circling each other. We know something is going to go down, but we don't know what (rising tension/conflict). The camera, rather than words, is being used to create this tension --- with the way it circles the men, zooms out and zooms in. Focuses on the guy taking off his coat, or the dust blowing. The shot of the kid with the harmonica in his mouth slowly zooming out to the larger scene is really gripping, suspenseful and eerie. The scene serves as both exposition and to create more conflict.

The camera creates parallel images to help tell the story --- the shot of the man in black at the beginning mirrors the shot of the same man in the harmonica scene.

It helps bring us back to the first part of the story and also takes us to the height of the conflict. At this point I'm kind of torn as to what the resolution to this story is. Is it the man in black getting shot? Or the man with the harmonica shoving it in the dying man's mouth?

Thoughts on that?

I could just be over-thinking the whole thing. Aside from the storytelling, I am thoroughly impressed at how well the song was edited with scenes from the movie. And, if nothing else, it's a really cool video. We can definitely borrow ideas from it as we venture into storytelling using our fancy new video cameras.