Thursday, February 14, 2008

First Person Narrative in Film

George Romero is returning to his stalwart zombie series this summer with his movie Diary of the Dead. While it capatilizes on one of the biggest trends right now in franchise films, the franchise reset (seen in Batman Begins, Casino Royale, and the upcoming Star Trek, what is more intriguing to me is being a new entry in the First Person film, a narrative film told from the point of view of the person filming it.

This first came to public conscious, of course, with The Blair Witch Project. The horror movie relied on a viral campaign that created the illusion that the footage was 'real.' It was an interesting and important change in the way film was experienced. The story of the film was as important as the film itself. Now the success of this is up for debate (I really hated the film ultimately), but the dialog with the audience was intriguing.

Recently the first person narrative in film has been revisited with JJ Abrams' Cloverfield. Again with this film viral marketing was integral to the film itself. While not relying on creating the illusion that it was 'real' (which is to say, we were not led to believe that New York was destroyed by a giant monster and had just forgot), but as with Blair Witch the story of the film was an integral part of the film itself. The content of the movie was purposefully anemic on the details of the premise. All we know is what the people who lived the attack would know. There is a monster, and it is destroying New York.

What Cloverfield did that Blair Witch did not was comment on how we experience spectacle in a world where everyone has a camera. While at some point you begin to wonder why the Blair Witch crew hasn't put down their cameras (even though they are documentarians) Cloverfield relished in a YouTube world that Blair Witch could only dream of. The best example of this is the scene just after the head of the Statue of Liberty lands in the street and it is instantly surrounded by people taking pictures of it with their phones.

Pretty much as soon as the camera phone was invented people started to explore the narrative possibilities of that medium, but Cloverfield was the first major film to explore that world.

Romero seems prepared to take that to it's next step. A group of filmmakers happen to be filming when the dead rise, at this point not much different than Blair Witch. The difference comes from a director with a dark sense of humor and a knack for social commentary. The last line of the trailer says a lot about his potential take, "If it's not on camera it's like it never happened, right?"

I'm intrigued by this, there hasn't been a really new narrative style in film for a while, even Tarantino's broken chronology goes back to Citizen Kane. I'm looking forward to seeing this movie and hopefully expanding on this post afterwards.

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