Presentation versus content.
by B. Barker
It’s the way you tell ‘um. That strikes me as being annoying. No matter how interesting or clever your idea or story is, you have to be able to tell it. In fact your content can be border-line rubbish if your presentation is good. Can’t it?
Let the Right One In is a Swedish vampire film that most people have probably seen by now. It’s been well received critically and is a pretty good film. It’s shot in an austere way, with very little dialogue. Relationships aren’t expressed through language, but with simple gestures or shots that are held a moment longer than expected. In fact you are watching the film more for that tone than you are for it’s overall narrative, which isn’t anything new. There is an American remake of the film planned, but once they take away the low key presentation and minimal dialogue, they will be left with an age-old story of the relationship between a blood-thirsty teenage vampire and a boy, which with the help of a little Americanisation, is probably not that far from the less acclaimed Twilight films.
What about the core idea in books, surely that is always the story. Well maybe. Certainly characters have to go through a process to develope but events are less important than you think. On the Road is a book where a lot happens, but who remembers much of the story? Everything that sticks in my mind is rhythm and the relationship between Dean and Sal, or perhaps more accurately, Deans portrait of the character of Sal. All the criss-crossing of America just helps to turn up more moments where those two can bounce off each other. The core of the book isn’t about the events that transpire, it’s about capturing a mood.
What about outside of conventionally narrative-driven forms or creativity. Isn’t it frustrating that the way you present an idea in design, might be more important that the quality of the concept? Doesn’t that make design fickle and visually driven. Well yes and no, it’s certainly true that design relies on visuals to communicate concept, have a look at the work of a friends of mine. The appearance of his objects are the design. If they were an idea communicated just using language, they wouldn’t exist. The well thought-out making of them is the skill of the designer. It’s only through doing it, that the project can evolve, or even begin. The idea of machines for perfection is barely an idea with out some form of physicalisation, whether it’s drawing, filming or making. Design is an action, not an idea.
So in answer to the question, yes the presentation has to be good, but the content can’t be rubbish. It’s just perhaps a question of rethinking what the content is. Let The Right One In is not a film about narrative, it’s a film about mood and stillness and subtly expressed emotions. The narrative, even in a narrative-driven medium, is just used as something to hang ideas off. I remember Mark Kermode saying of disater films that the best ones almost always avoid showing the disaster, but use it as a driver for advancing the film; as a tool for exposing new aspects about characters or their relationships. That sounds about right. The same with my friends project, the idea is Machines for Perfection, but perhaps the project is about how machines communicate their function. The idea, and the communication and exploration of it can’t be seperated.