By Max Galassi, NFFTY 2013 Alumni
Experimental cinema abandons structure in the pursuit of freedom. It provides filmmakers the flexibility to create and tell stories outside the standard styles of filmmaking. There is always a lyrical element to experimental films. Distinct thematic subgenres may emerge but a common thread is the poetry of their free-form.
We are all eager to develop our own unique perspective as filmmakers. But when you are as young as I am, it is useless to consciously develop a style. With every film you make, you inch closer to the filmmaker you’re bound to be. Eventually and only through experimentation, your style will find you.
I never consciously set out to create experimental films but in the early days of high school that side of filmmaking happened upon me. As a perfectionist, I was so eager to create a perfect film with a perfect story. My mind was inhabited by millions of themes and messages and I felt an obligation to shares these sentiments with the world. But how could I create a single cohesive story out of this plethora of ideas? I found the only way I could do this was to be avant-garde.
We all have feelings that we don’t want to forget and memories that we want others to feel. In the first two years of high school, I created several films to do just that. I wanted to create something beautiful from my personal experiences. I set aside structure and focused on feeling. Whether or not it made perfect structural sense didn’t matter. I wanted the viewer to feel the same emotions that I felt.
But for viewers of traditional films, such empathy can seem impossible. With concrete plot points, characters and messages, many films tell you exactly how to think and how to feel. Experimental cinema is a crucial alternative, intentionally vague and interpretive as an art form. It allows us to relate to the film’s content in our own way. Essentially, we can feel for ourselves.
Experimental films don’t call for full understanding but rather a full emotional response. This is best achieved through an approach that values interpretation, metaphor and symbolism. By translating personal emotions into universal themes, filmmakers can create beautiful moments with broad appeal. These films are projections of our hearts and greatly exhibit our sentimental understanding of the world.
See Max’s interpretation of growing up in his film, Sophie’s Tree, which is also NFFTY’s pick for Film of the Week.