The Interview Compositions in "Spellbound" (2002)
Can We Talk About "Spellbound" (2002) Interview Compositions For a Minute?
This one is an instant classic. More people should be interviewed on nylon inflatable Darth Maul chairs. It's just a common courtesy to the general viewing audience. And it's also a pleasure for the interviewee.
I love how this shirt made it into the final cut. Nobody on the crew thought he should change it. That's the best part. I wonder if Tim even gave the director a few choices, and this one was picked out. What an image: The crew of "Spellbound" waiting around for Tim to change into his confederate flag + wolf shirt: the MiniDV camera operator walking around, framing the location as the sound person records ambiance in a distant pasture...
Okay so this is an actual cool ass composition. It fits the 4x3 square composition wonderfully, and starts to get into what I actually want to talk about. Yes, there is a DIY every-person quality to "Spellbound." It feels, while watching this movie, as if anybody could make something like this if only they pick the right event & follow many participants. Yet at the same time, if one looks closer, they can see there's a level of intricacy in the production of "Spellbound" that is outside the reach of the starting amateur. The compositions for the interviews are the biggest tell. Look at how the foreground is arranged to convey a lot of subliminal information. It's also aesthetic information, as the arrangement is not just communicative, but pleasurable. The flat focus adds to the painterly, cluttery production value of the image.
Aesthetic clutter, after all, is the easiest way to create dynamic images out of ordinary situations.
This image is another example of the aesthetic clutter in the interview compositions of "Spellbound." Check out how it's a dutch-angle. Quite eccentric for the subject. Note the way he stares off camera to the un-named interviewer (all interviews in this film are conducted like this: in the third person). Note the composition of the clutter in the room to communicate specific things about the character: the religious portrait, the camera-facing beeper, the office equipment, the closed shutter-blinds, the business attire, etc.
This one is a good example of how to film a DIY interview portrait. They found a space - a corner in a room - with a nice background color, possibly with a window to the right to allow for natural lighting. The filmmakers arranged some letters aesthetically in the background to give the entire composition a dynamic look: the arranged clutter not only communicates ideas about the image (associating ideas about formal letters, educational institutes, score keeping, etc) but also makes the image prettier to look at.
Just because you have a low-budget does not mean you don't have access to the skills to dress up any scene into something higher, something more aesthetic.
Finally, this shot is just plain ol' nostalgia for me. Pretty sure I was the same age as Nupur during 2002. Funny seeing an old box monitor with the refresh lines on the recorded image, the plastic blocky keyboard, the dutch-angle (so 90's), the afterschool studying in front of the computer, the old Windows operating system... Much nostalgia. Plus everything is beautifully composed. Note the pencil sharpener in the background, and how it perfectly occupies the space between Nupur & the computer, and faces the camera at a pleasing angle.