An improbable anachronism

What’s 13 times 5? If you can roll it off your tongue, this might resonate. A film historian was guest lecturing at my media school some 30 years ago. The raconteur par excellence told of a director of the ‘forties who spent a whole month on one shot. He wanted to perfectly capture the reflection of lovers embracing – on the surface of a gently flowing river. No digital special effects then. Neither fancy cameras. You simply worked with what you had and waited for perfect conditions. With countless takes.

I’ve recently come to know this talented young filmmaker who is cast in that old mould. You can feel his passion for his metier. He’s no Ray or Kurosawa but his craft is redolent of the time when moving images weren’t processed by microchips. He says he works with natural light, real, natural settings. He eschews special effects. He doesn’t mind the extra time and effort than if he had opted for digital wizardry, when he has it all on his laptop.

But he is an improbable anachronism. After screening his short earlier this week he invited questions. A young film student asked which special effects software he had used for one of the more poignant scenes. The filmmaker said he hadn’t used any. The questioner was unbelieving. How could that ever be? He must have used something? Else, how could he get that effect? Not his fault. He is of a generation that wouldn’t know how to multiply 13 times 5 without a smartphone.