Who Needs Words to Tell a Story, Am I Right?

Experiencing the multimedia works for this week caused me to question the importance of words in telling an effective story. They made me think: are words overrated? Watching Emma Charles’ Fragments on Machines certainly made me think so.

In a world so inundated and cluttered with information and messages and words endlessly throwing themselves at us, telling us to buy this, listen to this, dress like this, eat this but don’t eat that, and so on, Charles’ movie provided a pleasant respite from all the noise (though the film does have a ton of machinic noise, which is a separate entity altogether).

The only words to be heard are a tranquil narration from the perspective of the machines themselves, serving to accompany the visuals rather than detract attention from them. In this way, giving priority to visuals over dialogue is what I believe makes Fragments on Machines so powerful, and therefore so affective.

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Fragments on Machines, by Emma Charles

Personally, the visual style of Charles’ work reminded me of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, a film that shares similarities when it comes to placing visuals over dialogue. 2001: A Space Odyssey focuses the viewer on the captivating (and at the time unprecedented) visual set-pieces, in much the same way Fragments on Machines makes use of stunning visual shots (recall the opening shot moving from the subway seamlessly to the underground room with the wires and pipes). In fact, here’s a fun fact: 2001 has about 88 dialogue-free minutes, which accounts for more than half of the films 2 hour and 41-minute runtime.

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2001: A Space Odyssey, by Stanley Kubrick

Connecting to this, Josh Fox (or just Josh) uses a similar technique (albeit to a lesser degree) in his documentaries, Gasland and Gasland Part II. Fox talks quietly as he narrates the films, almost whispering to the viewer as he recounts his journey across the world in pursuit of the truth on fracking. You could even suggest that he speaks so quietly in order not to take the focus away from the shocking visuals he presents, of water igniting as it comes out of the faucet, and the like. His quiet, whispery narration style works to pull me closer to the story, as if I myself am involved and hold a stake in the outcome of the fracking crisis in the U.S. and abroad.


Gasland, by Josh Fox (or just Josh)


In relation to my ecology, I believe 2nd Avenue has plenty of potential for strong visual images, and I think I can utilize these visuals, accompanied appropriately by sound, to shape an effective narrative. I am attracted to and hope to draw inspiration from Charles’ use of the camera in composing the shots in Fragments on Machines, whether they are still shots of the exterior of buildings or long smooth continuous shots traveling down a narrow alley of pipes and wires or servers. Seeing that my location is a long narrow street, I think there is potential to mimic some of her styles.

– Kai

Works Cited:

Fragments on Machines. Dir. Emma Charles. N.p., 2013. Web.
Gasland. Dir. Josh Fox. Perf. Josh Fox. HBO, 2010. Film.
Gasland Part II. Dir. Josh Fox. Perf. Josh Fox. HBO Documentary Films, 2014.
2001: A Space Odyssey. Dir. Stanley Kubrick. Perf. Keir Dullea, Gary Lockwood, and William Sylvester. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1968. Film.

~ by kaihatakeyama on October 21, 2016.

3 Responses to “Who Needs Words to Tell a Story, Am I Right?”

  1. most relevant:

    I was captured by the first sentence of your blog post, and then I decided to finishing reading the content. I cant agree with you more on the importance of not only storytelling, but effective deliveries. We often think questions like,” should I make my narration fancier in order to catch people’s attentions?” or ” should I be more plain and sincere in order to deliver my thoughts clearly.” and an actual affective delivery is turning into an art, isn’t it? — by lil

  2. I would award this post with the title “most interactive” or “most analytical”, in that I did not feel that I was reading just a summary of the documentaries. Your blog post effectively questions the style, themes, and perspectives of the documentaries, allowing for a more read-able passage. The media you used also helped to make the post more informed. – Diane

  3. Hi Kai! You get my vote for best film reference… also best learning! First, your title was immediately engaging to be as I thought the exact same way about Emma Charles’ film. There was just something so eerie about it that any more narrative would’ve taken away from it. Great job connecting the notion of “silence” in films with 2001: Space Odyssey!

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