‘Shock’. Joanne Swann. What the film is about….
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Tropfest (the worlds largest short film festival) 2010’s winner is called ‘Shock’. Out of all of the short films I have researched over the past month or so, I feel that 'Shock' has been the most influential so far. 'Shock' follows the day in the life of a very depressed middle aged man. The opening shot captures the man waking up and immediately crying desperately into his pillow. Another shot captures him crying whilst shaving, in the shower, in the car, and all the way leading up to his job in a radio station.
I feel that what makes this short film so effective is because the audience have no idea why this man, who appears to have a nice house and a good job, is crying so hysterically at every given opportunity. What's even more interesting is that his co-workers appear to be in the same emotional state (however we don't find this out until the very end.) The man's reasons as to why he is feeling so low are left to the interpretations of the audience thus relating to a postmodern style. The audience are therefore forced to become more actively involved with the plot.
One clue as to why this man is so depressed comes when he is driving to work. He looks out of his car window and spots a man walking along holding a little toddlers hands.
For a second the man smiles, however, he then suddenly bursts into tears. The audience are free to interpret this in several ways, maybe this man has lost his child and seeing this toddler brought back happy memories quickly followed by very painful memories. Another possibility is that maybe this man wants to have a baby and seeing the toddler made him realise that he still hasn't got what he truly wants, maybe the man is depressed due to his unchangeable life choices.
Another factor which makes the film so effective is that it is all filmed using handheld cameras. As a result, this makes the footage appear as if you are there with him. Furthermore this aids to the realism effect thus making it seem as if the film is more of a documentary style and that this man is really going through a very difficult time. This would then have a slightly harsher impact on the audience as they would then feel more genuinely sorry for him and also much more curious as to what is causing him so much anguish. Realism is also demonstrated throughout the lack of quick edits. Some of the cuts are much longer than usually found in films and there are rarely any cut ins. The effect of this helps reinforce the idea that we are witnessing this man go through these struggles beside him.
Throughout the majority of the film, a non diegetic soundtrack of a violin is playing during the scenes of the man crying. Violins are stereotypically known to connote sadness. As a result it makes the audience sympathise even more with the depressed man. The violins stop abruptly once the camera switches character to one of the radio hosts in the studio. This scene carries on without any non-diegetic sound. The impact of this makes each individual character appear very lonely and sad in their own way. The silence also aids to an era of awkwardness between the characters and further suggests that each individual has their own personal issues and reasons for their sadness.
At the end of the film, we see the man sat at the radio station about to begin the radio show. Just before he speaks his face cracks and he looks like he is going to cry again, however he doesn't and instead we see him force a smile and dive straight into a very happy and upbeat radio conversation. As soon as the conversation is over, the main character alongside his co-hosts stop abruptly and an awkward and depressing silence comes across them. Suddenly, instead of the main man crying, his co-host bursts into tears and no one in the room even reacts.
I felt that this was a very powerful ending to the already dramatic behaviour of the main character. Furthermore it suggests that all of these characters have split personalities in which they pretend that they are okay and happy when in reality they’re really not. I feel that this says a lot about how express ourselves to others and how what we may see in a person may not be a true reflection at all. From the way we speak and smile and act we can easily put on a positive front, when in actual fact, inside the negativity could be overwhelming. Its just, no one can see it.