The Trailer

Trailers actually TRAILED the movies do you believe it, you could experience them AFTER you see the movie!!! Featuring famed Cindy Sherman, Jackson Pollack, John Singer Sargent and his scandalous Madame X!! Come read it. It will shatter your foundations.

From time immemorial trailers have always accompanied movies. Initially movies were just nickelodeons of scenes involving mundane accounts of daily life like the 50 second silent film Arrival of a Train(1895) containing footage of a train approaching a train station. As the cinemas evolved into more story driven affairs there was a need to keep the audience coming back. This incentivized the practice of leaving movies at a cliff hanger(common even nowadays), after which the next feature was teased in form of a small clip which came to be known as trailers. As the name suggests they trailed the feature film making use of any film space left in the final reel.

This practice of using trailers as advertisements got traction and soon it was picked up by main stream movie industry. Nowadays any release in the entertainment industry(be it movies, TV series, games) is always accompanied with a definite marketing strategy involving multiple previews, teasers and trailers. Contrarily trailers now don’t trail the film but are added at the beginning of the film, so that they get maximum exposure.
Trailers in a way, end up being pro consumer helping one to be informed. Just like reviews they help to give the audience a good idea of the structure, plot and cast of the movie.

While there is no doubt that trailers are a great marketing technique to lure the masses into theaters, they seem to me, an unnecessary endeavor artistically. Taking a closer look at what a trailer is composed of, one observes it is just an amalgamation of scenes and pieces of the feature film arbitrarily edited and shown out of context with the sole purpose of selling it to the masses. In many cases the best scenes are added to the trailer thereby ridding the audience of surprise. While this itself is a bad practice many trailers also end up revealing or making obvious the whole plot(intentionally or accidentally) of the feature film. For one wanting to be pleasantly surprised by a movie this is detrimental.

The studios see how a well done trailer can positively sway populations to watch their movie, this encourages them to every now and then put out trailers that belie the true quality of the real product(here a film). Though this is a practice more rampant in the gaming industry we see a fair share of it in the movie buisiness too.

Trailers also contribute to introducing preconceptions into minds of people which shapes the way one reacts to a movie. Having such preconceptions often misleads the audience and even stops one from experienceing the true vision of the director.
In other art forms like painting, photography and music many have independently come to a similar conclusion.  Jackson Pollock, the famous abstract artist, decided to rid the audience off any figurative view of his art and stopped naming his art but rather started numbering them. He felt that by not naming his paintings he could strip them off any preordained subject matter or preconceived ideas. Similarly artists such as John Singer Sargent titled his infamous painting Madame ** (later renamed as Madame x) wanting to cleanse the painting off of any subjectivity. Moving to photography we have Cindy Sherman who has made a whole collection of self portraits named the Untitled Stills, to have a similar effect on her portraits.

The problem of having premeditated ideas is that it ends up restricting the way one can analyze the subject matter and misleads one more often than steer in the proper direction. While watching trailers is no sin, why one would want to be misguided by such devices of advertisement and not experience the original vision of the director is beyond me. Treating life like a box of chocolates and surprising yourself every once in a while is more exciting. So stop watching trailers start watching MOVIES.


The Serenity in Silence

Since the advent of cinema both audiences and film makers have embraced the importance of sound and music in film. Initially the lack of recorded sound was supplemented, using title cards and having live orchestras in the theaters. As time passed cinemas started to utilize sound and dialogue to improve story telling in general. Today soundtrack(original or other wise) is a critical part of cinema. But of late most cinemas have procedurized(turned into a formula) the use of silence to a certain number of cliches.

The most notable misuse one can notice is in horror movies where extended moments of silence are usually paired with a profusion of loudness to make the audience uncomfortable and agitated. The other recurring use of silence is to show shock(either literal or mental) in movies like The Pianist(2002) and Saving Private Ryan(1998) sequences involving explosions are usually followed by moments of silence which is symbolic of how the protagonist is reeling from the shock of the battlefield. The same can be seen in One flew over the Cuckoos Nest(1975) where silence is used to the same effect when Frank(the protagonist) gets shocked electrically. While these uses can be justified, the worst misuse is for emotional purposes either to portray either loss or showcasing deep thought.

There are many examples where directors have used silence in innovative ways to improve the quality of story telling. But of them Martin Scorsese has been seen to consistently embrace the concept of silence. One of the best examples of his innovative use of silence can be seen in his 2016 production aptly named Silence featuring Adam Driver and Andrew Garfield. While the movie is majorly about symbolic silence, the silence a believer has to handle before redemption from God, it also resorts to literal silence in many instances to show case this struggle a believer has to face. This also inspired the “2001: A space odessy”esque start of the movie where the audience was treated with minutes of silence whilst staring at a completely blank screen.

Another way the movie was unique was its use of minimal external music and soundtrack. Experiencing a movie which switches the norm from loud grandiose inception horns or cleverly orchestrated music  to ultra-subtle foley and natural ambiences was fresh and helps one personally experience the protagonist’s desperation for a word from God.

Another instance where Scorsese has showcased his mastery over this balance between sound and silence, is in his 1980 sports drama Raging Bull. In boxing matches where Jake LaMotta(the protagonist) is about to get slaughtered the choice of removing all the sound effects leave the oncoming punches produces a “numbing effect” (as quoted by Scorsese himself) helping exemplify the agony endured by the protagonist.

Most movies set in space make use of prolonged periods of silence to demonstrate the lack of any sound in space due to lack of air. To showcase this we can take either the 2013 destructive cast away drama gravity or the 1997 Sci-fi drama contact. But the innovator of such a prevalent norm is none other than Stanley Kubrick who demonstrates this perfectly in his 1968 movie 2001: A Space Odyssey. In the scene leading to death of the Dave’s(protagonist) crew mate Frank and Dave’s plan to retrieve his  pal there is very little dialogue and an excess of silence. One can hear hear the ambient sounds of the spaceship,  even breathing only when the camera cuts to Dave, every where else its total silence. It helps increase the suspense in general and helps further mystify the unknown, which is the space.

Terrance Malick’s movies usually tend to be very philosophical and filled with symbolism. So in almost all his movies be it A Thin Red Line(1998) or Tree of life(2011), most surreal moments are either accompanied by subtle soundtrack or complete silence, this helps one have a unbiased interpretation of the surreal matter.

Even when one pops the blue pill and snaps out of the “Matrix” that is Cinema and Entertainment, there is still an ever growing cacophony of conversation and music. In such times one needs moments of such pristine silence to discern the real sound  in all that noise. This article is not in any way condemning sound or its use in cinema. There is no way Psycho(1960) would be Psycho with out the excellent use of shrill violins in the shower scene nor would Jaws(1975) be Jaws  without the cello piece. Even contemporary classics like the helicopter scene in Apocalypse Now(1979) or the the swimming scene in Moonlight(2016) would  be as compelling  with out the respective soundtracks be it Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries or Nicholas Britell’s excellent score. But even though sound, dialogue and music all are a very important components in cinema, so is silence.