essayistic films are very different but equally rewarding to make. in this kind of films, you ruminate about something. it could even be about the very film you are presently making. or it could take the form of a personal diary (real or imagined) that is told through pictures and sounds. or you could investigate some issue that interests you. why not be the historian of your building or street, if not your life and times? in other words, rekindle the spirit of vertov’s life caught unawares, cinema vérité and direct cinema. shoot life as it happens. no blue print, no pre-conceived scheme to circumscribe the shooting. the particular events matter less in this kind of film than the perspective through which they are being observed. the voice of the filmmaker is what makes the footage meaningful.
i find this type of moviemaking especially suited for digital projects. it tends to be more personal than stories requiring actors. you, yourself, and your thinking make up the node of the work and time is not an issue. such projects are not without interest from a viewer’s perspective either. instead of getting engrossed in the adventures of a fictional character, one becomes absorbed in the thinking of the filmmaker. marker, godard, akerman, and sokurov have all used this process quite successfully.
it does not take much to get us to think about film. kuleshov conducted his seminal investigation of editing using only four shots. john berger in his ways of seeing shows the same painting by van gogh, wheatfield with crows, twice. the first time, with room tone only. we thus have a chance to appreciate the painting—the landscape, the colors, the brushstrokes, etc.—on our own. then he shows it again but this time a somber music accompanies his telling us that this was the last painting van gogh completed before his death. our response is immediately altered. a work of art open to our perusal becomes loaded with an emotional baggage that is immaterial to the painting itself. because we are able to experience our own internal turn-around, we are shocked to discover how easy it is to manipulate perception and play with our emotions. what experiment do you have in mind?