20 Places :
1. Schizophrenic State of Mind
3. Internal Organs
4. In a Wall
6. Washing Machine
9. Autopsy Room
14. Madison Square Garden
16. Mariana’s Trench
17. Bermuda’s Triangle
18. Outer Space
20. Garden of Eden
I wanted to explore a fictional ‘place’ or rather a state of mind that only certain people are able to experience. Rather than focusing on a completely fictional space, I decided to explore a reality that only exists to some people. Hence I narrowed my ideas down to ‘Schizophrenic State of Mind’.
“Schizophrenia is not a disorder of ‘split personality’ but rather a disorder of fragmented mental processes. It is a major psychotic illness. Many suffering from schizophrenia would, usually, have suffered the symptoms of psychosis for at least six months before seeking help. Sufferers will have experienced a deterioration in interpersonal relationships and in daily functioning at school or at work. Although it can affect anyone at any age, its onset is usually in adolescence or young adulthood.” — IMH, SG.
Constant periods of Psychosis are what Schizophrenics experience, alienating themselves from people around them. I wanted to make a film that would allow the audience to see and feel the fragmented thoughts that go on in the minds of affected people.
In ClASS SOUND EXERCISE
Here are the sounds I recorded (All were taken within ADM)
As we were tasked to produce a 1 minute short film, I decided to focus on one specific episode of Psychosis. Hence the title for my film, ‘Psychosis’.
To use asynchronous sounds with clips to accentuate the idea of undergoing Psychosis.
My initial idea was to capture close up videos of random actions and details and string them together into one film. Almost like the idea of B-Roll footages. However after consulting with my Prof, I decided to anchor the whole film through an overarching subject matter. This would also help provide a narrative for the audience and ease their grasping of the abstract idea of Psychosis. Hence I decided to include shots of my friend performing random actions, together with the initial B-roll like shots.
I chose one of my closest friends to be the subject matter for the film. As someone who has experienced mental illness, I thought her to be the appropriate subject matter to be featured. I did not want to use a person that had completely no concept of the idea of mental instability. This was to ensure my directions to her would have at least some form of conviction and naturality instead of coming off as mere ‘acting’.
Visually, she is someone who gives off a very grunge-like aesthetic and as much as this may be a stereotypical portraiture of a mentally unstable person, I decided to utilise that — considering my audience were mainly made up of the ‘normal majority’. The point of the film is to convey an idea and I decided that employing a ‘harmless’ visual stereotype would help reinforce my concept.
Reference Images of Her
I decided to go for an intentionally messy hair and smudged make up look for my final film.
Breakdown of Themes and Techniques in Film
1. Fragmented Clips — Fragmented Thoughts
The use of fragmented B-roll clips, strung together jarringly one after the other, portray the concept of fragmented ideas that form the reality of a person with Schizophrenia.
2. Looping/Repeated Shots — Trapped in a Psychotic Loop
I took a very short clip of the subject matter’s head turning around, and being cut off just before she fully turns to face the lens. This shot is repeated twice, once at the 11s mark, and again when the film ends, at the 1m10s mark.
I wanted to evoke an insidious feeling by repeating this supposedly random shot at the end again. When viewed at the 11s mark, it may not have created much significance. But by ending the film with this same looping movement of her head turning, I wanted the audience to question its repetition and significance and also feel discomfort. It draws attention since it is the only repeated clip. This idea of looping in a circle is also a key aspect of psychosis where people may draw links between completely isolated concepts and end up forming a skewed reality.
3. Close-Ups — Acute Sensitivity
Most of my shots are close-ups — different parts of the body or items. I wanted to keep the subject matter consistent without having to show her face all the time. The close-ups also bring attention to tiny details such as the tremor of hands or scratching of bruises. I wanted to highlight the acute sensitivity a person undergoing psychosis might experience by including tiny details that require the audience to take a closer look. Here are some examples from the film:
Hint of a back tattoo and a yellow bruise mark
An empty slab of pills with just one pill left
Black bruise beneath all the scratching
Nail marks and slightly reddish mark on right breast
Pale specks of yellow and red stained tissue in toilet bowl
4. Perspectives/Gaze — Skewed Perspectives
I used different angles and perspectives, and different gazes towards the lens to convey the idea of having a non constant and perpetually skewed train of thought. Here are some examples of these shots in the film:
Distant glare in the mirror
Intense and direct stare at the mirror
Disassociated yet calm gaze, away from the lens despite front facing
Top-down shot in intimate place of toilet, idea of a pervasive prying
Bottom-up shot with subject matter staring down at lens, giving her power
5. Asynchronous sounds/Layering of Sounds — Voices in head
I mainly employed asynchronous sounds and increasingly layered more sounds together towards the end of the film, to build a rising climax and a crescendo. For example in the bathtub shot, I used the hard sound of crushing a can. I wanted this juxtaposition to be conveyed. The layering of sounds also explores the concept of the objective and subjective voice. It creates a confusion and blurring of the lines between these concepts — audience may not be able to tell if the sounds are objective or subjective. I also used a backing track beneath all the recorded sounds, to provide a constant head voice to the subject matter. I used the song ‘Born to Die’ by Lana Del Rey but asked a friend to sing a cover for me instead — I wanted it to be raw and original. Here are some examples of the clips which employ these contrasting yet similarity between sound and clip:
Use of lighter clicking sound vs image of a lamp
Scratching sound of chalkboard vs scratching of soft skin
Blowing of hairdryer vs Spraying of hairspray
I used clues between the clips to help connect them together in a more visually cohesive manner. Though my idea was to convey fragmentation, I did not want the final product to look ‘messy’. Below are some clues or details I utilised to aid in transitioning smoothly between adjacent clips :
Breeze of turning fan followed by blowing of mist from hairspray
Street lamp in background, followed by close-up of streetlamp
Random wall in background followed by same pattern in clear toilet shot
Reflection of red traffic light on road, followed by flash of red light from phone, illuminating the skin
I also kept the dark red lipstick, cigarettes and the blonde streak in my friend’s hair as anchors for most of the scenes.
The film ends with my lens following the trail of a teardrop, through this obscure looking hole. This was actually a hole burned through a sheet of paper, placed right in front of the lens. When looked closely, you can see the dark burnt edges around this ‘hole’. I wanted it to be a subtle yet powerful ending. By this scene, the crescendo comes to an end and we are only left with the backing track — I wanted to attempt giving the audience this sudden ‘breath’ after the climax. The looping head turning appears (explained earlier), and the screen blacks out with the song still playing. The film ends with the lyrics ‘we were born to die’. I wanted it to evoke a lingering ominous feeling.
I was hugely inspired to incorporate the use of layering sounds by the band CocoRosie. They employ random daily objects including children’s toys, to create the instrumental for their songs.
I could have pushed the idea of asynchrosity by juxtaposing more contrasting sounds and clips. I should have also considered ending the film in complete silence to achieve an impactful ‘Breath”.