From the very beginning of motion pictures, starting with Slavko Vorkapich, film director and theoretician, Jean Cocteau, poet and filmmaker over Marcel Duchamp and his “anemic cinema” to Roman Polanski’s first works (The Lamp, Mammals, Two Men and a Wardrobe), Albert Lamorisse’s Oscar winning fantasy Red Balloon to David Lynch and Jim Jarmusch’s Coffee and cigarettes (full-length movie made of short films), importance of short motion pictures isn’t just obvious, but fundamental. There are two radical and opposite ways to make a short film: script-based short film and extremely experimental – cinematic – method: “pure film”.
“Pure cinema” is excitement that can be produced without the “personality” and that means: no theater or storytelling elements. Film that is far away from literature, far away from theatre resources. Poetry. Impression. Although, this theory, elaborated originally by Germain Dulac and Abel Gance (La Nouvelle Revue Française, 1915), and later by Francois Truffaut and Jean-Luc Godard seems to be old, now days, it’s quite opposite – especially if we discuss experimental documentary genre.
Experience of one student, filmmaker from Prague (FAMU) is whole narrative about making “pure cinema”, pure cinematic motion picture. He said that he has found beautiful town on island on the Mediterranean sea (somewhere in Croatia). Town was almost empty. Only sun, sea, odd and old people and sound of silence, dark as mystery, as he said. He was there during the winter time. In short, this is his story: “Right after my arrival to Korcula, I was blinded by that beauty. Nature. People. Metaphysics. I had so many ideas but I knew it was impossible to make anything at that time. I want to make something now, I thought. That is how I felt. I phoned my cameraman, good friend of mine, but I didn’t tell him anything about my impressions. I knew, his camera is always with him. He was surprised when I told him that we are going to make film without screenplay. We started next day without book of shooting, schedule or anything else. We were looking for pure impression: close-ups of rough, hardworking people faces. Contrast. Beautiful sea and sky on that particular Mediterranean island. Well, as I said, we had only one camera. We were shooting for only six days with digital camera and we came back to Prague with nearly 20 hours of raw material. When I told my editor that we are going to make a short film from 20 hours of raw material, he laughed. He thought that I am joking. Of course in that time he didn’t know that I don’t have screenplay. So, when I told him that I don’t have single page of script, or even a note, he didn’t laugh anymore. After couple of days of persuading, he agreed to be a part of this unusual project. We were editing my film for almost two months. We made successful short movie – only 7 minutes long about a man who cleans empty streets.” (Student Filmmaker, January 2009.)
Jorge Luis Borges, famous Argentinian poet, short-story and screenplay writer, who was influenced not only by writers (film director Josef von Sternbergever) never wrote a single paragraph of a novel (fat books if you ask Borges), but he wrote more then ten books of extraordinary fiction (A Universal History of Infamy, The Aleph, Ficciones). True art, he claimed, is to write a short story, rather than to write (produce) complicated novel with – as he said about Tolstoy – hundred characters. Economy and metaphor instead of explanation, explication; surrealism instead of realism.
Can we say same thing about short and full-length movies? Of course, some of us may disagree with this observation, but why Bertolucci’s Novecento isn’t masterpiece? Perhaps, because it lasts for nearly six hours?
Script-based short movie is a great opportunity for young authors – and not only for them – to experiment. Script-based short movie is also very suitable for screenplay based upon character. In one-minute short film you can produce serious joke with strong political effect. In three minutes movie picture you can tell whole childhood story. In fifteen minutes you can make movie in one-shot about an old man. And in twenty nine minutes you can tell love-story. Also, there are so many genres and sub-genres that you can, as author, explore: cinematic-essay, grotesque, fantastique, cinematic-etude, film-bagatelle etc.
And, never forget: short movie LIVES on the screens of the SHORT FILM FESTIVALS.