Reviews: “Uberlin” and “It Happened Today” Videos
By Linda Sommerville
So my MMT friends, it seems that I am the ONLY person who actually likes the films! Perhaps if I explain my perceptions, all of you will at least look at them a bit differently. I don’t expect you to like them, but maybe a little commentary from an art film lover will allow you to appreciate the efforts of the directors and actors/dancers????
As the proud mom of a very talented, professional contemporary dancer, I immediately said “Oh COOL! A dance film!” I looked at this film as a work of contemporary dance. The actor, Aaron Johnson, is a trained dancer , and dancers interpret music in many ways. In some cases the movement is directly linked to the lyrics, in literal fashion. An example here is the fall on the stairs, and collision with the pole (Crash land, no illusions, no collision, no intrusion). Pretty obvious straightforward stuff. The real “meat” of the movement happens as a reaction to the music and lyrics. For example, as the music progresses, the dancer’s movement becomes stronger as he realizes he is going to “make it through the night.” The cocky strut during “I know, I know that I am changing”: He begins to respond to his environment in a “fun” sense, (mimicking the squirrel, walking backwards with the man in black). With each step he becomes more upbeat. He has gone from a sleepy, distracted, somewhat disgruntled individual, to someone who is discovering joy. It culminates in powerful explosions of movement, that reflect the power of Buck’s guitar, and joyful cartwheels and jumps, as the music tells us he is “flying on a star into a meteor tonight.” He moves forward with purpose.
If you would like to see an exercise in contemporary dance performed by my daughter’s dance company, check out the following link. The exercise is designed to explore the combination of fast and slow movement. It is danced to Radiohead’s “House of Cards.” Each dancer must interpret the music her own way. This type of free association, often leads to new choreography. You can get a sense of individual interpretation of music. My daughter, Carly, is the first dancer “on stage” (red hair, black headband). I am sending this review to her as well. I am hopeful that they will eventually create a work to an R.E.M song….maybe “Low?”
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It Happened Today
To me, this film is about a young man, distanced from his family, virtually ignored by his Mother and Sister. (“this is not a parable, this is a terrible thing”. As he heads out into the snow, he seeks distraction from his life, and follows the black dog (representing something mysterious, awaiting him). The music has been masterfully remixed and reworked to fit the eerie mood, as the boy walks carefully through the culvert, not sure what awaits him ahead. Only when he discovers the dumpster, and the discarded flowers, does he begin to release his pent up anger, through the simple act of vandalism.The music soars here to beautiful harmonies and reflects the growing power of his actions. As he moves forward, carrying his anger like a flame, the film culminates in his final act of vandalism. He “finds his voice’” in setting the hay alight, and only after releasing the anger can he smile again, go home and sleep peacefully (in a house where he has not even been missed). I am not sure about the man with the gun… maybe representing protection for the boy (it was his black dog that led the boy to the tools that allowed him to safely release his anger), who then left the boy alone, when he had accomplished his task.
So those are only my interpretations. You may see something completely different if you look closely. Just as we all hear different things we love in music, so can we experience that in other art forms. The joy of art lies in one’s ability to interpret it as you wish. There is no right and wrong.