Director Fin Manjoo goes into minute detail on the making of the most subtle movements that are usually taken for granted in films, underlining the path of Bonifaz in Woodwind.
One of the roles of art is to open audience perception, and after experiencing a powerful art installation, music or film, one can still feel the resonance of its effects long after you were immersed into this new rhythm.
The power of nature is one of the important subjects in Woodwind for the audience to feel, to examine the fine details of the woods, to hear the sound of the winds breathing through. In almost all films I find shots of nature pass by after two seconds, as if it wasn’t even there, used as a secondary set decoration on the way to whatever artificial backdrop is going to overtake it. When looking back at the Woodwind edit, we wonder how it is sometimes testing for a viewer to experience nature for even eight seconds. Is that too long and why? What is so discomforting about letting go to the forces of nature before feeling pulled back to press those machine buttons calling for you from the distance?
Hollywood films have played a large role in subconscious detuning. When we mostly remember our favourite films, we don’t remember the few seconds here or there when our hero walked, because our minds are subconsciously phasing the walk out, we remember the acts before and after, such that those walks inbetween are almost like rest periods where our minds are temporarily falling deeper into the dream of the film, transporting us only to the ACTION. If the walk is even a few seconds longer, we run the risk of the audience really falling off to sleep in that dream, not because a few more seconds of walking is tiring but because we’ve been tuned out of it by the mainstream.
There’s been a few films which break this norm of sleep pattern to awake the viewer. Hungarian film director Bela Tarr is the one that mostly comes to mind for characters on long walks. In the United States, Gus Van Sant’s death trilogy (Gerry, Elephant and Last Days), annoyed many impatient audiences from the reviews I read. On the other hand many viewers do get it, that for example in Elephant, the filmmaker is mapping out the geography of the school, just as the killers did, before the pieces of horror come together.
In Woodwind the art of the walk is essential. I’m not interested in Tarr or Van Sant’s character walks here. Whatever I’m using in Woodwind is natural to my own story and objectives. Bonifaz has his own path to walk. We never follow him just for the sake of it. He is never walking aimlessly. All the paths in Woodwind are connected for a specific reason, which is how it should be in a film about a character’s inner and outer journey. The only way to recognize this is to pay attention to not just the walk, but every detail of where he is walking, because in cinema every split second of frame on screen is there for a reason. In Woodwind the natural landscapes, woods and paths around Bonifaz are so beautiful, and so are the sounds and music of nature, but they’re not presented just to admire how pretty nature is.
Actor Leandro Taub, who plays Bonifaz, took this to another level with his superb attention for detail in his methodology. Leandro would speak to me precisely about the weight of his leg in the movement and which foot to move first, discussing books that he read where a single motion made a specific psychological difference fitted into the mind of Bonifaz. Well, Bonifaz is walking the earth in Woodwind, and for every walk, Leandro’s style is subtly different. Looking back I find his execution of these so-called minor details to be the art of a true actor.
Even in the trailer which you can see now, there’s one moment where you see Bonifaz walking across a field. I wouldn’t want to decode the meaning for you, but this walk is as always very different from the others and I find it interesting to compare them, based on not just the movement of his legs, but also the weight of his upper body and the way he moves his head during each walk for reasons I can’t reveal before you watch the context. Of course, this is not the prime action in each of these scenes, but when one is tuned to every detail of the actor and the nature around him, it is possible to be awake to the multiple levels of the scene.
Above all, we are not just waiting to find out what Bonifaz will discover at the end of his path, for the path is the journey… meaning is discovered on the way.