This week, I want to talk about one of kogonada’s work: Malick // Fire & Water. This is just a 01:33 video essay, no voice-over (I realized that I really like videos without voice-over, since this is the third one I did), but impressed me with every single frame, and also by the consistency between images and sound.
To begin his video, kogonada showed is one haunting scene of Malick: the boat on fire, surrounded by water. Or in the other words, a tiny fire in the middle of the sea (or lack, I have no idea). This scene, appears with the video’s title, seems like the best way to introduce to main theme, or topic, of the essay. Fire and water are the two principal elements in Malick’s movies, at the same time, two elements chosen by kogonada to describe the differences through time in his masterpieces. This very first appearance gave audience an idea about what the video will talk about. Furthermore, unlike the rest of the video, in this scene kogonada used the movie’s audio, which is might be considered a welcome to Malik’s world.
After that, every frames are divided into two parts, a juxtaposition between scenes with fire (on the left) and scenes with water (on the right). They are all symmetry: not just graphically, but also in the content. It is out of doubt that the way kogonada choose scenes with similar graphic content created a significant consistency in his video. The comparison begins with the scenes of picture burning by fire and man’s face under water: they all focus on the element “face”, even if on the “fire” side it is not a man but a woman picture. Since then, every scenes continually juxtapose one next to other: fire tornado vs water tornado, man’s silhouette in fire scene vs man enjoying his free time in the water, burning house vs house underwater, man burning trees vs man watering trees, or the crowd trying to extinguish fire vs doing rituals welcoming the rising sun. We can easily see that there is a relevant symmetry in his work: close shots go with close shots, nature descriptions go with nature descriptions, men placed next to men, crowds next to crowds, etc. This symmetrical comparison revealed two different themes in Malick’s movie: the “fire” ones vs the “water” ones.
Moreover, through those scenes, kogonada also showed us the symbolic meaning of fire and water in Malick’s movie. It is easy to find out that most of his fire’s scenes are attached to the idea of destruction, of war, of tragedy. Instead of that, the water scenes brought the feelings of calmness, of serenity, of nature appreciation. “Fire” is violence, but “water” is delicacy. At the end of the video, he used a black fading effect, not just as an transition, but also a method to emphasize the opposition of two elements, especially by using scenes with only fire and water, no other elements (such as human or trees like previous scenes).
It would be a regret if we do not mention how kogonada used music for his video. In here, it feels like there is a concrete consistency between sounds and images, since scenes are changed according to music pace (tempo). Furthermore, the music is a little bit dramatic and “nature”, which makes me think of Discovery channel’s videos.