Wednesday, 23 October 2013
The talking head reads from prompt cards. Intones with flat intonation. He is no professional, but is undergoing the greatest audition of his life. For his life.
The cards are held by a human auto-cue, a man unlikely to be aware of Dylan's "Subterranean Homesick Blues" video for all this uncanny homage. Though they are fittingly stationed in a basement, it is the talking head who is a long way from home.
The card wrangler stands behind another man wielding the camcorder. There is camera shake because this man wishes he had the role soon to come in front of the lens and can barely control his fury. He is a man given to daily rage minute by minute on behalf of others. Today’s ire is uniquely located within his own plight. He is disgruntled with his position within the film-making hierarchy.
The slight cant of the performing head's eyes betray the unseen existence of the prompt. As to the cant of the words....
They were being digitally captured.
Captured, an apt word for it. Prior to being released into the airwaves. Wave or particle? Who can rightly tell when all media is quantum. When you need to go viral just to survive and reproduce within the body of the host. A world joined up by interconnectivity, yet only to further human atomisation.
Wave or particle, the observer distorts what he observes. The rest of the time when not being filmed, the talking head is blindfolded. He observes nothing. Distorts less. The production crew themselves are hooded. Negative inversion of the blindfolded head. Where dark comes out light and light comes out dark. Digital cameras require no such developmental transliteration. No chemically immersive treatment.
The same could not be said of the prompt cards. They required redaction. Letters transcribed backwards or with butchered limbs, curlicues and arabesques. Since this was not the natural calligraphy of the film crew, but an imported one. A colonial one. Their transcripted mangling might partly account for the talking head's faltering delivery. When the film's Director barks at him in his native directorial tongue, the talking head shakes its incomprehension. It wobbles in synch with the camera shake. Emotions at the opposite poles of the spectrum, yet impelling the same frequency of reverberation.
Nevertheless, since the tone of the words is clear, the overarching message does not pass completely over the talking head’s head. This is how human beings train dogs. Curs. The precise words themselves are redundant. Tone is all in these messages.
The word the talking head stumbles over is 'repairations'. The script editor had trusted to an online translator when inscribing his prompt cards. Had he been also offered 'reaper-rations' or 'repair-nations' in among the Moonie wedding of word couplets? The algorithm word groupings. The idiomatic permutations. Language determinants per mathematical probabilities, go figure. All in the quest for the resonant phrase. The one that could bore into men's skulls and alter their perceptions. Sub-titularly buttressed by this visual presentation. Actions speak louder than words.
The off-screen prompter flips over another speech card. Its predecessor plops to the floor. The camera pans in for the full head shot. In order to capture an escapee bead of sweat on the talking head's brow. The focus puller pulling rank and introducing a creative decision. A production value. A subjective judgement. Intromitting auteurship. Though this will only ever be a collective owning up to ownership. Attribution but no end credits.
As he enters into frame, the director yells “cut” and the talking head can talk no longer. Or ever again. This is a one-shot take only and the camera shakes more than ever as the fury of its operator peaks. The production crew become Greek chorus as they chant the soundtrack to the central action. Swords, no sorcery. Unless one counts the strange permutations of the online world. Boxed box office.
If you think this story is in bad taste, then it has performed its function of echoing the feelings aroused by Facebook permitting the sharing of beheading videos if the context is acceptable.