In life, it seems that the best decisions are made by maintaining a balance between logic and emotion. Rely too much on logic and life becomes rather colourless and boring. Rely too much on emotion and it becomes excessively chaotic and confusing. I reckon this is not the case with films.
In a way, to be fond of a film based on its technical achievements as opposed to the level of emotion it stirs up in one’s heart is a fallacy. By technical achievements, I meant smooth editing, flawless camerawork, profound storyline or intricate mise-en-scène. Sure, these are undoubtedly essential to accomplish on the complicated quest of creating great films. But really, a filmmaker’s main objective should be on stimulating as much emotion as possible in the audiences. Because films are pieces of art, and art is a creation meant to appeal to one’s sense or mind. Thus it follows that if a film fails to invoke any memorable, intense emotion to a person, then for that particular person, it is not a decent film. Casablanca, for example, is an undeniably well-crafted film, but it fails to invoke strong, memorable impression whatsoever in me. On the other hand, The Hateful Eight seems to be a sloppier, more carelessly-constructed flick, yet it emotionally affects me in a much heavier level. Speaking subjectively, as a cinematic triumph, Casablanca exists in a much superior level, but as a piece of art, I prefer The Hateful Eight.
Another thing I noticed is that there are is no absolute standard of what is and what is not a good film. In Renée’s No Film School article, she came up with a theory of the 6 elements that makes a great movie great, namely the script, characters, acting, timing, sound, and visuals. Although I do not exactly comply with the idea of imposing any sorts of criteria whatsoever to any art forms in general, I do respect this kind of mindset. In fact, a failure to acknowledge these 6 elements during the process of filmmaking can be considered as an act of ignorance and denseness. But again, these are only technical aspects. A film can manifest a clumsy script, clichéd characters, mediocre acting, awkward timings, ignorable sound, or unsightly visuals, yet it can be heartily engaging to some viewers. The art of filmmaking bears no resemblance with that of science or mathematics. There are no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ films. Figuratively speaking, they cannot be categorised into the colour black, symbolising failure, or the colour white, symbolising excellence; the categories are better represented by a vibrant spectrum of colours. The colour red is not necessarily superior better than the colour blue. The colour yellow is not necessarily better than the colour green. And so on.
But if the potency of a film is measured by its emotional intensity, similarly, isn’t the reddest shade of red superior to the other shades of red? The bluest shade of blue superior to other shades of blue? The yellowest shade of yellow superior to other shades of yellow? At first, I thought so. Then I watched Naoko Yamada’s A Silent Voice.
The Japanese animated film A Silent Voice revolves around the story of Ishida Shouya (Miyu Irino), a grade school student who bullies Nishimiya Shoko (Saori Hayami), a girl with impaired hearings who is also his classmate. After a period of intense bullying, Shoko eventually transfers to another school, and as a result, Shouya is despised by his classmates and is ultimately bullied himself. Years later, with no close friends to talk to, Shouya plans to compensate for his mistakes and redeems himself, re-befriending Shoko and his circle of friends in grade school. A complicated relationship between both Shoko and Shouya is thus formed.
The film has a lovely story and potentially interesting character relationships, but is, to an extent, unsuccessful in its delivery. The first parts of the film are exceptional; the characters are subtly introduced, the story tremendously established, and the mood powerfully set. The opening credit sequence, in particular, is eminently pleasant to watch. However, the film gets messier as it progresses. The delicacy and subtleness of the script diminish as the dialogues of the characters become superfluous and purposeless. The film messily jumps carelessly from one scene to another; a result of awkward and disorganised editing. The characters suddenly become less interesting to watch and observe as their unique characteristics fade away and subside. Also, there seems to be something missing that prohibits it from being powerful; from becoming the reddest shade of red. Yet it still made me emotional.
But why? Sure, as I stated earlier, filmmakers with poor technical skills does not necessarily produce lousy films. But this is something much more complicated than that. The film is not supposed to be powerful enough to make me sentimental, yet I still left the theatre on the verge of tears. If it’s not about intensity, then what exactly is the recipe behind all the films we personally find emotionally appealing? I don’t think we’ll ever know. The brain works in mysterious ways. All I realised is this: just like the colour red isn’t superior to the colour blue, the reddest shade of red isn’t necessarily the best shade of red.
A week has passed, yet the delicate, bittersweet emotion I felt after watching the film still resonates in my mind. This is exactly what great dramas do; they gently absorb you in and refuse to let go. I will let my biased, irrational side out in this review and go ahead to call this film an excellent achievement.