The primary image that will occupy the screen is of a old man’s face, gradually erupting into a full smile, slowed down over three minutes. The motivation in this is to disguise the event in time, the audience will only be aware of the fact that the subject is smiling as the face subtly changes frame by frame, millimetre by millimetre into a peacefully joyous expression. The smile shows a frozen moment, as if a weight has been lifted, displaying a confirmation of life and at the same time showing an acceptance and serenity in the face of age, a letting go of worries and closure.
Blending with this images from the words of a hand written letter, its memories implied. Ink, pen and paper are seen, as an old hand writes out a personal letter to someone dear. Breaking down the text, sentence by sentence, we will present the words in the manner they are written, as if a train of thought is progressing to its conclusion at the moment of its creation. This will present the real and personal nature of writing a letter, with all its idiosyncrasies, in a natural and not in a contrived way.
The piece will attempt to become dreamlike, warm and textured. However, the final effect of the film will be greatly dependent upon the accompanying soundtrack, but the audience will be invited to bring their own meaning as the work is shown, trying to discover what the full content of the letter is and what the final smile then implies.
To approach the soundtrack I began by simply watching the final cut, over and over again. The most noticeable aspect for me was the stillness of the face compared to the movement of the pen and the constant flow of the words. I wanted the soundtrack to match the expression more than the words and the violin came immediately to mind; to try and form a drone or elongated note that would float over the piece, supporting the timeless quality of the face as it slowly changed.
The first part of creating the soundtrack was to play the film and improvise using an electric violin, once the feeling and mood seemed right I moved on to the examine the resulting melodies and phrasing that had occurred. I then continued to improvise along with the primary sound recording to bring depth and add resonance, it seemed to be based in D Minor and played with strong rubato, avoiding the tempo implied by the pens movement. The more improvisations that were recorded, the more I began centring on a primary melody and ended up with the pizzicato eventually used as the strongest element to the soundtrack.
Two of the improvisations were selected and overlaid in the mix; with the clearest, in terms of its emotional content, doubled up. The two droning improvisations were blended in and out of the piece, hopefully avoiding areas where my lack of ability as a musician showed up.
The Final Cut
The resultant film, for me, conveys a strong feeling of yearning. At first, when the pizzicato begins, the main focus seems to be the man’s eyes and the face seems to be completely static. As the strings begin creeping in, the music comes across as melancholy. I begin to feel that the man is full of regret and yearning; that he is writing the letter and looking at us from the past and that he has already gone from our time. As the words are examined for meaning I get the sensation that there is nothing that can be done or said, that whatever situation was transpiring has already concluded long ago and we are watching the aftermath or echo.
When it can be seen that the man’s expression is beginning to change, it may first assumed that he is about to cry but soon we an see that he is in fact smiling and the mood of the piece changes. However, the music maintains its original momentum; it shows that the outcome is fixed but no longer carries any sensation of loss or grief. That if it is a farewell, it is a fond one.