lucas j harger
On Subtlety

Much has been said about the nature of subtlety within filmmaking. So much so that I almost don't feel the need to add to it. Almost.

The qualities of an audience we cut to are the intangible ones. The qualities that make up the lens with which the audience views the film through. An audience who has no regard for their lens, no sense of their emotion and preconceived ideas concerning the subject, is no audience. They are critics. And we do not make films for critics. We make films for audiences [1].

So we cater the acts, scenes, and cuts to these intangibly held qualities. The way in which we cater is through subtlety. We let the life of the audience member inform the screen in a way that makes the cut meaningful to them. The obtuse viewer is one who's mind is made and they look for ways to accept or reject a film into their worldview. Not, letting the film inform their worldview. So when we create a film for the obtuse, with obvious cuts, with much information, with vast amounts of context, we create a devise to prop up the ignorant. To fuel the fool.

However, when we use subtlety, suggestion, visual reference that inspire thought and internal dialogue, we are then creating meaningful, confrontational films. It is here a word must be said on clarity. There must maintain clarity throughout the film. Creating subtlety and suggestive cuts is not ignoring the necessity of clarity. The editor is often the last in a long line tasked (especially within doc work) to hold exposition and subtly in balance while maintaining clarity. It's like stretching a rubber band between your hands. Stretching that rubber band as far as you can without it snapping. Keeping that tension (clarity) between exposition and subtlety throughout the film tends to result in a more meaningful piece.

[1]It is my personally held belief, tho backed purely from circumstantial evidence; that the best filmmakers are also the best film watchers. The ones most accepting and least negatively, or technically critical. To be a good filmmaker, one must be a good film watcher.