The Trick (2014, 12 mins)

Here's an analysis of the film, if you wish to go deeper down the rabbit hole! Good luck!

 

The Trick is a short film about a magician who's internal struggle with life results in an external struggle with his tricks. But as soon as he finds back how to perform a magic trick he will have to journey to his inner self which is represented by a white-deserted room. He will find a kid there, he is that kid. The magician then understands that in order to get his magic back he needs to change the way he sees and relates to the world. The magic lies deep inside him and it's a matter of gaining back his childish view full of wonder and astonishment towards the world.

The script was written by me and developed further with the help of Pavel and Espen (my classmates) when they chose to work on it.

The main idea came up to my mind while watching an episode of the American series 'The Twilight Zone'. The episode is 'The Arrival' and its story is about an airplane landing without passengers nor pilots. The main character, a detective, tries to find out how the plane was able to land with nobody on it. He then assumes that the plane is only an illusion and shows it by pushing his arm into its running engine, but as predicted the airplane disappears distroying the illusion. Surprisingly at that moment all the men witnissing the event disappear as well, leaving the detective alone. I wished the story would have stopped right there, but it continued. So I decided that I had to write a story with that disappearance element.

At first I was willing to write about the illusion of reality, but then while talking with Pavel I decided to write about magic and connect it to our inner self.

 

Another inspiration for the movie is Italian writer Giovanni Pascoli.

Pascoli says that every human being has a child inside of him that never grows. It's different from the chronological child that we are in early age, but it is connected to him by the awe and wonder that he experienced viewing the world as everything is new to him. The same goes to grown persons: they only lack the ability to revive and discover the child within. 

As I see the short film 'The Trick' more then once I aknowledge more and more this similarity between the plot and Pascoli's theory of the child within. 

 

The result is not quite what I expected, but it's really close. The movie could be interpreted and further understood if we analyze it through the notion of realist and modernist cinema. As for this paragraph, I will refer to Bill Nichol's book Engaging Cinema. An introduction to Film Studies, specifically the chapter called Three Fundemental Styles: Realism, Modernism and Postmodernism. 

 

The Trick could at first be seen and judged as a Realist film. 

In that I could agree at a certain degree. The movie could be viewed as realist because the story tells events in a chronological and linear fashion and its characters exist on their own. But, more appropriatly, I would call it a modernist film: formally and socially. 

In form because we used a few techniques that remind the audience that they are watching a movie (the subdivision in chapters and jump cuts). This causes a Brechtian alienation among the viewer. Some film examples are the ones of the Nouvelle Vague. As we see in the final scene, the Epilogue, the magician finally passes through the curtains and walks onto the stage (the stage could be interpreted as the cinema stage/screen). This could also be viewed as a hint to a physical braking of the fourth wall. The chapters act as reminders for the viewer that they're only watching a story told through a medium. The storytelling is thus visible to our eyes. Personally, I think that this modernist style helps the viewer to understand that the character on the screen is more related to him than he could imagine. The story, as weird as it might be, has inevitably strong meanings that everybody experiences in life. The chapters (one, two and epilogue) were chosen at a late stage in the editing process. They, with the hand-held camera, resemble Lars von Trier's style. 

This is what I suggest as the movie being modern in form. 

Socially, this movie is more modernist than what a person could think after a first view. 

It's an exploration of the interior. The white room represents the inner-self, where you must find your own child and re-discover the awe and wonder. 

It's a subjective life experience that the protagonist has. Thus the film too has to be subjective and open to various interpretations.  

The movie is deeply intertwined with many different elements that one single view wouldn't be enough. As the viewer watches the movie multiple times, he will understand that the white room stands also for a metaphor, which is the character's inner-self, his consciousness, his memory, his imagination, his emptiness...all of these representations correlate deeply with the movie. All are right. There's not such a thing as only one interpretation to this movie. The film takes different forms according to which viewer it's shown to. It's relative to the viewer. Everyone has his own interpretation. There's for sure a basic plot line and events, but they can grow into different interpretations as branches on a tree. 

 

 

We started relativatly early with pre-production. We worked a lot with the script, changing some scenes. The script went through a 'transformation' process as I would call it. 

The original idea had a different location and involved more actors, precisly more kids. The plot also changed, during pre-production, production and post-production. 

 

The main concern was to find the actors, especially the young boy. Luckely enough, I remembered that I met a Swedish actor during the shooting of the short film Money Back, Please. We contacted Alexander and arranged the shooting schedule. We were so happy to know that he was available most of the time. A bigger challenge came when we looked for a young boy who would act in the movie. We tried personal contacts and public ones, without any good results. Three days from shooting we finally found Ferdinand who would play the role.

We sent the script to Alexander and had a couple of meetings with him before shooting begun. Meeting him and talking about the character helped us a lot in creating the right atmosphere where the actor could feel comfortable being in the role. 

The next step was to think about the location we could film at. We chose to utilize again a scenography close to Lars von Trier's Dogville. Black background that could minimize the décor where the actor was standing, to emphasize the concept, rather than the story. That's when we decided to film at the university's TV-studio. It was a very smart idea, because we had very easy access to the school's gear.  

After that came the storyboard. We divided the script into three parts. We had one part each to create the storyboard out of. Espen, who's a very skilled drawer had beautiful and well explained storyboards, while Pavel's ones were so messy that they looked like abstract art but he creates very good logos!).

As for my storyboard, I think I could have done a better job. I wish I could have spent more time on them, because I regreted not doing so while shooting. 

Shooting started very early, at  early stage.

We divided the parts, Pavel and Espen would work on sound, scenography and lighting, while I got the part of directing and camera operation. The most helpful thing I did to get organized was to write a shot list. That helped really much, because we almost skipped some shots. From now on I will use this method every time.

Technician and professor Rolf S. Løvland helped us with the green screen. He gave us an overall orientation on how to use the software that was connected to the studio's green screen. Without his help, the whole 'white room' scene wouldn't look nice at all. In fact it would probably resemble an alien green room.

Editing started from the very first day of shooting. After each day we would transfer the files to final cut pro and overview them to be sure we didn't need more of the same footage. 

All three of us helped with editing. We made a rough cut and from there formed the final result. 

Post-production went very good generally speaking. We only had some problems with colours and sound.

 

 

© 2014 NICHOLAS SNYDER. 

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