I had the nice pleasure of viewing Vicky Jensen’s oddly sensual short film Family Tree on Tuesday in the company of the great John Timmons.
The short film form, much like the short story, is intense and unforgiving. I can’t think of a portion of Jensen’s film that lagged, stumbled, or paused for something better to come along, such as a long car chase that “makes” the film worth it or that one dazzling shot that will make the audience go “wow, I’m glad I paid 8 bucks for this.” The film, which follows a couple’s family gathering and draws its energy from “those truths of family history and story” every “spouse” marries into and must learn to live with or understand, was consistently energetic and visually intense, every word, phrase, and transition necessary to the “whole.”
Photographic language or composition was important to the film’s sense of pace, scene, and narrative shape. One scene struck me in this context: the simple flow of water over vegetables from the tap in slow motion and the dance of “family” in the kitchen–the connection to flow (narrative), to watching for those things we often miss in the slightest human and phenomenological gesture–all this amassing more power than than motorcycles zooming through the canyons of a matrix.
What’s the point: the short form covers lots of ground in a short space. The form is not about “making it short”; it’s not about “attentions”; it’s about shaping narrative by shaping time.