Glorifying the Mundane

In my Electronic Media Studio, we viewed 2 sets of films:  The first being a set of films by the Lumiere Brothers and the second being Jeff Krulik’s documentary, Heavy Metal Parking Lot.    The Lumiere brothers were two of the earliest film makers.  Jeff Krulik’s movies were made a century after the Lumiere brothers’.  The Lumieres’ films include scenes of workers leaving a factory, babies being fed, men drinking, and other common scenes. Krulik’s film documents people in the parking lot waiting for a Judas Priest concert to start.

Both films choose to document, not any grandiose, over-the-top, “important” event, but rather mundane scenes.  Scenes that would not cause people to stop and take notice of because they were fairly common:  a meal, quitting-time, a concert.  Small moments in people’s lives.  Moments that really don’t change the course of anything, that have no real impact on people’s lives.  They’re filler moments.  Moments in between milestones in our lives.  Events that happen everyday.

It is obvious that both sets of people being filmed are aware that they are being recorded.  However, the Lumieres’ approach and Krulik’s approach are very different.  While the Lumieres step aside and allow their subjects to act independently, Krulik directly interacts with people by giving them a microphone and asking them questions.  So, naturally, the people’s reactions to the filming process are going to be different depending on how engaged the film maker is in the process.  But in both films, it seems as though people are “hamming it up for the camera.”  Hamming it up.  Isn’t that a strange notion?  That we feel a need to put on an act while being filmed.  I suppose it’s because when something is filmed, it is immortalized.  It will forever be preserved as it was then.  And people are afraid to show who/what they really are.  How they act naturally.  I it possible to act completely naturally in front of a camera without it being candid?  Is it possible to be so comfortable with yourself, that you’re alright with being portrayed as you are for forever?  I’m not so sure that I could ever fully get to that state of being.  To not change certain aspects of my personality and to not fear what future generations would think of me.   To be truly happy with how you perceive yourself as well as how others perceive you.  Because that’s really what it means to be filmed, isn’t it?  Offering up a certain perception of yourself to be documented for the future.

Since the idea of film was so new and revolutionary back in 1895, the idea of capturing a moment in time and preserving it was extraordinary to say the least.  We’ve sorta lost sight of that.  That magic…that wonder…..that power.  Because films are so common, we’ve forgotten that everything we film becomes immortalized.  All those ridiculous video messages that you leave on your friend’s facebook walls, all those recordings of middle school band concerts, all those home movies.  They’re all preserved for an eternity.  Those moments will outlast our lives, our children’s lives, even our grandchildren’s lives.  We may be long forgotten but that video of you blowing out the candles on your 8th birthday will continue to live on.

Links to the videos:   Heavy Metal Parking Lot and Lumiere Brothers First Films

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