I was super excited when I came across this video. I grew up in a family that put a great emphasis on the time we spent together around the dinner table and even now I love to cook and host people for a homemade meal. So I’m always interested in the role of food in film – it has such an important role when it comes to defining culture and society, how is that used and reflected in the world of cinema?
Unfortunately I didn’t feel like this video fully satisfied my curiosity when it comes to that question. It certainly goes through the various ways a dinner scene is used in a movie, it first grounds the characters into reality. They are eating, thus they must be human. And because most of us have an established idea of what it means to sit around a dinner table, whenever something out of the ordinary happens we can understand it as a defining moment in the plot. It can convey conflict and add comedy or drama through the unexpected.
I also appreciated that this video essay reminded us of the power something so common can have. A dinner scene would not be put in a film unless it meant something significant and because the act of sharing a meal is so culturally important there is a lot of room for meaning. But I found this video commentary to be lacking when it came to fully delivering that point. The author does an excellent job of telling us his ideas but I found the visual impact of his work to be found wanting.
The creator of this video used a variety of sources, which is effective for showing us that dinner scenes are used in many different types of films. But when watching a movie and learning about film, I am much more interested in how something is there not just that it is there. What I wanted to see was one of the scenes taken apart so we could see what that scene is telling us, how it does that, and why. If we were to linger a little longer on, say, the family dinner in Little Miss Sunshine we would probably see all three elements Now You See It calls attention to: “human-ness,” conflict, and the unexpected. The same would go for dinner in The Incredibles and certainly in American Beauty. These are all great dinner scenes and I wanted to learn more about what makes each of them powerful. I think this video would more more impactful, informative, and interesting if it were to take a step or two into that analysis – it would at least be a bit more filling.