PP2 R&D – Short Film Reflection #1
The Big Shave (Martin Scorsese; 1967)
Scorsese’s The Big Shave is roughly five minutes in length, so it is a few minutes shorter than the scripts that we are intending to produce. It is however, extremely effective, and what started as quite an ordinary scenario – a man shaving – became something quite horrific. The film is set in a single location, which is the mans bathroom. The film contains no dialogue and no diegetic sound, only a single song as the soundtrack (’I Can’t Get Started’ by Bunny Berigan, 1939). There are a number of close ups, of the white, clean bathroom before the man enters. He begins to shave. He keeps on shaving, what seems for a very long time until the viewer realises that as he is shaving, he is cutting himself. More and more blood appears, and the film becomes more and more gruesome until finally, he performs one long shave across his neck. The man is not dead, but the amount of blood that appears is almost excruciating to witness. The man simply stands there, emotionless. Some quick googling reveals that the film is seen as a metaphor for the self-destructive involvement of the U.S in the Vietnam War - given that the film was produced in 1967, this makes sense. Reading this film in a different social context, the self-destructive metaphor is still clearly visible, though for a modern viewer it’s connection to the Vietnam War is perhaps less apparent.
The film works because it starts off with this sense of intrigue – what makes a film about a man shaving so interesting? When the blood starts, it’s hard to look away. It’s simply compelling (and, as stated above, highly allegorical). Perhaps the film doesn’t follow a ‘traditional’ three act structure, but I would argue that it does. The beginning – nice clean bathroom, man comes in. Middle – man starts to shave, blood starts to appear as he shaves his skin off. End – one final swipe of the razor, the man stands there.
Sound wise (as this will be the area that I focus the most strongly on in putting together our own short film), the only thing going on at first glance is the soundtrack choice. The song choice may have been random (the big band feel of the song is a striking opposition to the nature of what we’re actually seeing), and editing has been done around the music. The lyrics speak of a longing – I read it as a love song. But the absence of all diegetic sound is important too – we are left with little to focus on but the images themselves.
There is a lot that can be taken away with relation to the films that we will make – the uncertainty in the build up, the creative use of the soundtrack (I will never hear a song like that again and not think of this), and the use of metaphor and allegory. It’s sometimes nice to imply or infer things, rather than stating them blatantly and for a short film this method works very well.