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Montauk Point/selling calm


When we write or direct a film, it's kind of like conducting an orchestra over the course of the story, building up tension, creating contrast between funny moments and violent ones, character development scenes and major plot reveals. This discussion however, is about what's probably the least discussed tool in the emotional orchestrator's kit. This is about scenes that induce a feeling of calm, meditation, or reflection. They serve a variety of purposes in practice, allowing a beat for the protagonist's emotional state to land with the audience. Showing a character pondering a tough decision, or simply giving the audience a momentary rest after an intense section of the story.

The reason I bring this up is that over the last 20 years, I've seen a sizable industry grow around this technique. ASMR, 10 hour loops of a campfire crackling on youtube. The final fantasy series from Square is about 30% ambience by volume, and is headed towards a billion dollars net. It seems clear that there is a customer base out there that likes content designed to reduce anxiety.

My usage in these projects will be rare, typically punctuating more intense scenes, but I've seen films like "Nausica: Valley of the Wind" that were very successful using this technique more forward in the mix.

I've seen this chord played a thousand times, and never heard anyone talk about it. So I thought it might be interesting to discuss. Has anyone else ever intentionally created quiet, serene moments in their films? Do you hate it or like it when filmmakers put these "rests" in their compositions?

I'll highlight a scene - Mike's death in breaking bad. There is a long shot of him just sitting by a river, bleeding out, and the pace slows to a crawl for a moment, as the viewer watches him sitting silently, watching the sunset reflect in the river.
 
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I like the bonfire and shore line loops on Youtube. Not having my own fireplace and not living by the ocean, I do sometimes like watching them.

Yes, we watched Mike bleed out and it was a nice scenery the writers chose for him to meet his demise., but Victor (in box cutter episode) also met his demise by slowly bleeding out after having his throat slit by Gus. Not quit as pretty as Mike's death. No calming affect there. So, what's the difference? Victor was two dimensional. His death meant little to anyone. All that it was was graphic. Mike's death was glorified a little. Sure, he loved his daughter and grand daughter but is that enough to make us forget that he is a cold blooded killer for hire, a corrupt ex-cop? Mike knew who he was. He knew he was a bad guy. I don't think he would have approved of the film makers glorifying his death.

I'm not sure I follow you on how using time to reflect or take a break or have a calming moment just for the sake of itself is being used in films. I would agree that Mike's death is a good example.. Any other examples I can think of I would classify as the calm before the storm, or lulling you into a false sense of security right before the killer jumps out. As for the "let's stop everything and watch the sun shine on the water" , They did it well in Breaking Bad in the context that you describe. They also did it in Let's Scare Jessica to Death, and Friday the 13th. In both of those films it was misdirection right before something startling happened.

It just dawned on me that Breaking Bad is sort of old. Perhaps WE could appreciate what the film makers did when they decided to shoot that scene. Perhaps today, it wouldn't be considered since all anyone seems to want these days is an adrenaline rush.

Looking back at what I just wrote, I'm not very satisfied. Maybe I'm not sure what you're talking about..
 
It's something that you see 100x as often in Japanese films, so that may be the communication gap. I think the style probably started with people trying to save money on animations, trying to wring every possible cent out of matte paintings and the like. Studio Ghibli films for example are famous for using these long tranquil sequences to great effect.

I'm not a fan of anime, but I do keep an open mind and try to pick up interesting techniques from all kinds of filmmakers.

It's actually hard to describe exactly what I'm talking about, it's this type of low key tension, the calm before the storm, a lot of time they do this when introducing dramatic plotlines during luls in the action.

There's a game from 20 years ago that's still regarded as one of the most terrifying entertainment products of all time by many. It's called Silent Hill 2, and this one game was such a huge hit that it actually spawned 2 hollywood films. How this is relative is that the technique I'm describing is really the main riff in that product. The trick seems to be making the banality of empty situations feel tense and creepy, while simultaneously peaceful. It's weird, but there's also a feeling of time standing still that goes along with these sections. Music plays a big role in creating this vibe. I guess another component is that life is always happening at a realistic pace in these scenes.

A good example you would remember is from blade runner.


Here's the music track that probably best represents the modality I'm describing.


Here's a video where someone collected up a lot of this kind of shot, and added terrible music to it.

 
No worries, I'm recovering from covid also, it's amazing that I've gotten anything done this week.

To me it's interesting because these scenes seem to have some kind of stealth psychological effect. No one remembers these scenes, but they have been used often in movies and games that are now considered masterpieces, or attracted large followings. It's like the first time you see an analysis of the "millennial woop", where there is this very ordinary component that just happened to be in every hit song for 10 years straight.

In example, I think you can draw parallels between Joseph Campbells "Hero's Journey" and the message of this video. You don't notice it on the surface, but once you start looking for it, there's shared DNA between a lot of creative efforts that found success.

 
The clips aren't resonating with me. I don't feel it, but I think what that points out is that maybe the intangible thing you're trying to describe is as person as the definition of love or beauty. You felt it. I did not. That doesn't mean it isn't there.

The last clip was the most perplexing. Yes. It was a good medley of some fine tunes that I like very much and I liked the guys performing, but I didn't find a trace of a Hero's Journey on display anywhere.

I do agree with you that a lot of creative effort does share a common DNA but over the years I've decided that it's more a matter having a sound story structure at the core. THAT is the DNA.

Back to Mike during his last minutes on Earth. I chalk that up to story telling brilliance. Maybe not a technique or gimmick but just something unique and possibly profound.

 
The clips aren't resonating with me. I don't feel it, but I think what that points out is that maybe the intangible thing you're trying to describe is as person as the definition of love or beauty. You felt it. I did not. That doesn't mean it isn't there.

The last clip was the most perplexing. Yes. It was a good medley of some fine tunes that I like very much and I liked the guys performing, but I didn't find a trace of a Hero's Journey on display anywhere.

I do agree with you that a lot of creative effort does share a common DNA but over the years I've decided that it's more a matter having a sound story structure at the core. THAT is the DNA.

Back to Mike during his last minutes on Earth. I chalk that up to story telling brilliance. Maybe not a technique or gimmick but just something unique and possibly profound.

Yeah, this particular thread isn't a high water mark for coherency. I don't think I've gotten a full nights sleep for 16 days. I am trying to describe something I've seen work often, I just don't think I'm doing so great with the description.

I probably should have just called it "zen in film" which actually expresses what I'm trying to say in a more concise way. At the end of the day, I guess the feeling I get from these segments as "time standing still for a moment"

About the last clip, I think you do get it, because you described it immediately in the next sentence. Those songs all had the same exact 4 chord structure. Over the years, with all the variations, people never realized it, but they were actually listening to what was effectively the same song over and over again. It's not just a medley, it's the same exact chords in the same order over and over for every song. That sound story structure you describe.

Anyway, I hope you are recovering from covid faster than I am, lol. This is taking forever.

One last example

 
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It's not just a medley, it's the same exact chords in the same order over and over for every song. That sound story structure you describe.

Anyway, I hope you are recovering from covid faster than I am, lol. This is taking forever.
Sure, I did notice the way the songs worked together, but to be honest, I might have been concentrating on the, "Joseph Campbells "Hero's Journey" and the message of this video". THAT is what I did not find. Again, I like that video and have already downloaded it for my collection. Let me listen to it again thinking in terms of the 4 chords.

Time standing still for a moment. That happens in life all the time. In my opinion, those are the greatest moments a person can experience. I consider them moments of pure truth. Unvarnished. Unedited... Lovely. Example My ex-wife and I were settling some final issues during a meeting right before the divorce was final. We were walking out of the building and she looked at me. Our eyes met and we seemed to freeze. Time was standing still. For that moment the two of us seemed to be telling the other how much we loved the other.... We got divorced. It's been 10 years and I still have regret. I don't know if you will agree but even exquisite pain has value in life.................... anyway, in film those moments can actually stand still and they often do. Slow motion used properly can be a wonderful thing. Unfortunately, today people use it for everything under the sun so, in effect, it has lost all meaning. Just a way to fill airtime or screen time.

Covid is still with me too, Nate. Every day I'm a little bit better but it's been 7 days so far and I still have a runny nose and a mild cough. No other symptoms really. The first 48 hours were fraught wth chills and joint pain, plus my voices sounded like Froggy from the Little Rascals. LOL! (that was sort of cool) ... Hang in there. It can't last forever..
 
I think we are on the same page now. It feels like all of life's most profound experiences live in those silent moments suspended in time. I guess this whole thread was just about how I think it's really cool and interesting when filmmakers are able to convey that elusive state well.

As far as moments of great pain being of value, I think I understand, it's only at the highest and lowest points that you truly feel alive. The day to day medium becomes a blur. Still, I could have probably survived with a few less tragedies, lol.

I do agree with you that many use this concept to just tread water, under the guise of profundity, but in some of the examples above, like the 100 meters video, I think they actually did manage to capture that feeling on film, and convey it to an audience.

Covid hasn't been that terrible, but just a consistent annoyance for weeks on end. I think maybe I'm only a few days away from the end now. It's not as bad as it was, but I'm still only sleeping 2-3 hours at a time. Looking forward to being back to full health soon, hope you get past it faster than I am. It's looking like about a 3 week runtime for me.
 
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This is looking good. Is this going to be a stand-alone game? I had the first covid, whatever it was called. Felt like being punched in the head by Mike Tyson lol. Hope you're better now. About time standing still scenes in movies - I think that The Terminator (1984) before the shootout has a good one.
 
Yeah, that was a cool scene. I liked that shot where they frame kyle's face with those bottles in the bokeh, so all the focus goes to his face. They are imprinting that character on the audience, but in an interesting way.
 
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