Saturday, February 10, 2007


I don't like watching people applaud onscreen in movies. And it's not just because sometimes I find myself so far into a movie, that I unconsciously start clapping along like the sheep-clapper I can be.

No, watching people clap in a movie is irritating because it suggests to me that the filmmaker has run out of ways to signify a monumental or resonant moment in a character's storyline. Especially with the advent of cgi-enhanced crowds (thank you George Lucas), I feel like an applause scene is cheating. Being encouraged to feel pride for the recipient of the applause (from generally an anonymous mass of people) and watch him or her bask in the artificial glory is a dead-end visual contrivance.

At the end of Pan's Labyrinth, a character's spiritual achievement is totally undercut by the faceless crowd we've never met before cheering her on. "Look how many people are clapping! This must be a big moment!" screams the scene. But without knowing the people clapping, the connection becomes tenuous and fake and here rings very false.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire is another guilty party. There are way way too many scenes of crowds acting as one. The emotional shifts become inevitable and heavy-handed. The crowd is mad at Harry for being chosen to compete in the blah blah blah. Boooooooooooo. Harry steals an egg from a dragon. Yayyyyyyyyyyyy.

There are exceptions where the acceptance for an outsider character is demonstrated through a group cheer/applause. These scenes invoke a richer connection by incorporating close-ups of people within the crowd and/or a slow building, 80s-style clap rhythm (Thank you, Lucas).

But along with scenes of drug addicts going through rehab, scenes of crowds applauding/booing without discerning individual sentiment fully expressed need to be shelved for the time being.

More moratoriums as irritation dictates.


Post a Comment

<< Home