Additionally, because this particular message feels so heavily trafficked, the fact that it was shot in 16mm film didn’t help its cause. Why does the recording format matter? Well every type of visual recording media has a “feel” to it. Betacam footage “feels” like newsreel footage; DV has an infinite depth of field that “feels” digital and slightly overwhelming; and film has a softness to it that has varying “feels” depending on the size of the frame. 35mm film has been the standard for theatrical films for the better part of 50 years, whereas 16mm film was often used for televised dramas, especially in the ‘70’s. The look is very different between these two film formats and when you have a rather cut-and-dried film about suicide shot on 16mm film and include a very ‘70’s sounding soundtrack, you feel exactly like you’re watching an After-School special from the late ‘70’s.
(Now, with all my harping on “not committing suicide” for a theme for a film, does this mean that this sort of uplifting message can’t be pulled off? No, but it has to be done in a way that’s very innovative in order to work. For example, one creative idea might be to look at a foster kid who’s a recovering drug addict and has known a life of being beaten and abused at a multitude of foster homes. He’s not suicidal because of these things, because these are all so familiar to him. However, when he gets adopted by a family that truly loves him, it hurts so badly to be loved that he wants to kill himself. In such a story, he must choose between accepting love and life, even though it terrifies him because it might be an illusion, or stumbling into oblivion because it’s so much closer to what he’s always known.)
The visual look of this film is very clean and well exposed, without underlighting or overlighting. The camera angles aren’t exceptionally spectacular, but they are very serviceable and do a nice job of covering the scene.
Additionally, the editing was tight and serviceable. The only distracting area in editing occurs in a scene where the heroine sits on her kids’ bed before committing suicide and has strobing flashbacks of her playing with her kids on the bed. The reason this is distracting because strobing is rarely used for flashbacks and because the footage of her on the bed and the footage of her playing with the kids on the bed are shot at slightly different angles, which feels very disorienting to an audience. A better way to do it would simply be to do an optical dissolve to the scene from a close-up of her sitting in the bed.
While there weren’t a number of effects in the film, there was one practical effect that was especially nice. When Angela finds herself in the hereafter, it looks like a drainage tunnel, at the end of which is a bright light. As she walks into the light, her body dissolves into the light, which is a nice example of how film deals with bright backlighting.
Use of Audio
The director used an Audio-Technica AT-897 plugged into a Canon XH-A1 camera (set to record uncompressed DV audio) to record nice sounding dialogue. The audio effects and sound design were clean and well recorded, as well. The score was a little too synthesizer heavy for my taste, but it did do a very good job of fitting the ‘70’s After-School special look and feel of the film.