Monday, April 19, 2010

Title Sequences: Basic (2003)

The interplay between horizontal planes and human forms continue in the opening sequence of Basic. Instead of an abstract color field, however, the horizontal plane is established by the image of a boat navigating a river. And unlike The Thomas Crown Affair, whose orange waves initially move from left to right and become more ambiguous as the sequence progresses, the boat has no clear trajectory. It dissolves into itself in opposing directions until it finally slinks away into the horizon. The image fades to black and the narration, which concerns the storage and selling of medical cadavers, continues: "You see, this place has always had a special way of dealing with profit... and death" The image of Connie Nielsen appears. Her face is shattered by dozens of different flashing lights. She looks mournfully at something off screen and disappears not with a fade, but with a hard cut.

As a standalone piece, this is pretty striking film-making. Another distinction this sequence has from the opening sequence of
The Thomas Crown Affair is that there is no immediate opposition between the landscape and the human form. These visual ideas exist in an arrangement that doesn't rely on their opposing one another, rather they seem to exist specifically in tandem, complimentary in a way that encourages narrative interpretation but frustrates easy satisfactions. The film, much like the boat, fades in and out of itself. It makes sense then doesn't then does again. But the images continue to inform. Slowly the viewer is stripped of their normal film-viewing faculties (much like one of the rangers in the film) and asked to depend more and more on vision. The light dances on our face the same way it dances on John Travolta's or Connie Nielsen's. It would be foolish and impossible for me to summarize the film more than I have. My best advice is to see it as soon as possible. In the meantime watch the clip below.

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