The second week of the semester isn’t even through and we are back in full swing!! We’ve just started to dip our toes into the world of dance films, an extremely important and interesting vessel that dance can use to do things that would otherwise be impossible. The film that I chose to watch and analyze for both content (metaphorical interpretation, narrative, etc.) and technique (shots, angles, frame composition, cuts/transitions) was Reines d’un jour, a dance film by Pascal Magnin.
It takes place in countryside, mostly on grassy hills and in a barn type setting. It opens with short clips of the dancers running up and then consequently rolling back down, giving a feeling of desperate chaos, and maybe the struggle that comes with acquiring some sort of social power or status and then losing it? We don’t get a full shot of the bodies so we lack some context and just see the rush and effort. The slope of the hill was used very creatively alongside the movement to alter “reality” or what we could normally do on a flat surface. Common cuts between shots on the hills involved the camera following a leap up and over, or dancers sliding down the hill into the frame.
Next, there is a cut away to a woman placing her feet in and out of empty pairs of boots, with lots of very zoomed in close ups on her feet and hands. I think this type of setting/shot after a more movement oriented section is meant to recenter the dancers as humans too. I interpreted her trying on all the different boots as seeking out sympathy or perhaps looking to share empathy for others.
We next see a bunch of bulls roaming around on a knoll, occasionally engaging in headlock-type competitions. There are shots in between these of the dancers, arranged in couples. Their movement mimics (at first subtly, and then later more literally) that of the bulls, with the main focus on their heads/horns. To me, this alludes to three things: first, that the line between intimacy and competition is often a blurred one. Second, and relatedly, the power struggle in any relationship is constant. Third and most obvious, it’s a reminder to the audience that at the end of the day, humans are animals too.
There’s a short scene that involves a young boy traipsing around in boots that are clearly too large for his child-size feet. A older man comes and lifts him right out of them and he the little boy runs off. I think the boots acted as a metaphor for maturity or responsibility, or growing up in general. It’s easy to put them on, but when you have to function in them you realize how hard it is if you weren’t ready to do so in the first place.
Next there is a large, group social dancing scene. Some half-pans around the group were utilized in an effective way. The most common cuts or transitions as they related to the movement were jumps, and physical transitions in and out of the floor. Making this observation will be helpful in the future when I am working on choreographing/filming dance for camera of my own! Another interesting technique used to help build the opportunity for cuts was a prop (in this case, a water bottle) being handed off and thrown around.
At the end, three women descend into a body of water calmly and slowly. There is some gestural upper body choreography that’s captured from a distance away. The most satisfying aspect of this scene however is the proportion of the frame that’s taken up by the surface of the water itself. I take this closing scene to not surprisingly represent death, and how it’s not violent or scary or something to avoid as long as you have lived and loved, as the majority of the film was centered around upbeat connections between the dancers.
All images are screenshotted from the YouTube link attached here and at the top of the post as well, belonging to Pascal Magnin.