What the evolution of cinema has to do with sexuality and storytellers’ moral responsibility.
We’re continuously fascinated by the trial and tribulations of modern romance. Last month, we swooned over You Deserve a Medal, designer Stefan G. Bucher’s lovely homage to the feats of modern love. Today, we’re thrilled to reveal, in a Brain Pickings exclusive — a beautiful short film about that very subject by director John Thompson and producer Sharon Lee, blending 2D cutouts with 3D live-action in a wonderfully playful visual narrative to use dance as a metaphor for, erm, the ultimate act of intimacy.
We sat down with John to chat about the inspiration behind the film, the visual language of romance, and storytellers’ responsibility about framing the cultural expectations for love.
How did the dance metaphor come about?
That was the brainchild of writer/producer Sharon Lee. When she called me about the project, she had the basics figured out: A creative short film about a relationship dealing with modern challenges, and dance would be the metaphor for love and sex. Dance has a long history in literature and film for symbolizing human ecstasy, both the sacred and physical.
From Shakespeare to the modern YouTube dance videos, human rhythmic movement connects us in a primal way.
I absolutely loved that concept and instantly jumped on board.
Filmmakers have been infatuated with the visual language of romance since the dawn of cinema. How are today’s cinematic techniques, styles and vehicles different from what came before in painting intimacy?
For me, the thing that is so exciting about cinema is the way it has continued to evolve. Technology, trends, experimentation and style are always changing, affecting one another, ultimately having a great impact on the story of the film.
After exploring various approaches to our film, we decided to shoot stop-motion hand-held with actors in a simplified world made of grey paper. Since we were telling people a story they already knew, it was important to tell it in a new way stylistically. The tone of the piece kept a nice balance between humor and sincerity, which was something Sharon and I always wanted.
Do you think storytellers have a certain responsibility in terms of conveying the normative expectations of romance and, if so, what does modern romance mean to you as a storyteller and creator?
Personally, I think an artist’s only responsibility is to follow his or her voice. I don’t think you go anywhere really meaningful unless you go deeply personal and highly instinctual, and that can’t be any truer than when dealing with relationships.
‘Modern romance’ sounds like an oxymoron. To me, the guts of love are timeless, and it is the world changing around it.
As a filmmaker, I wanted to break into those timeless basics by stripping down the world in our film to the bare essentials, but it was also a balancing act to accurately represent current challenges in relationships to give the piece an entry point for the audience.
But at the end of the day, the guide for me was my personal experiences; the love and the heartache.