I like watching realistic modern-day films. Sometimes they have rather good plots (as opposed to some fantasy epics that recycle the same old material of young heroes riding dragons to fight demon armies) but the best ones have great establishment scenes.
I’m no film student at all, but if I’m not wrong, establishing shots show the setting where the scene or even the movie takes place, and is usually a long or extreme-long shot. To put it in layman terms, I see a long shot as maybe showing a road with shops lining along it, and an extreme long shot as like showing all the rooftops of a city. I don’t know if I’m right, and this is really peripheral anyway. My point is basically that I like these scenes of establishing shots. In fact, one particular scene stood out to me. It was the scene of post-rain New York City. I think it came from The Devil Wears Prada. And we see all these people walking, trudging, along the pavements, the cars sounding their horns on the road.
I don’t think I ever want to be a filmmaker, but I might just want to shoot a documentary someday, and this documentary is the dramatized version of the everyday life of a city person. I would stand a camera at someplace discreet, maybe inside a shop, and shoot the people along the pavements, their heads bent, their bodies huddled, their hands tucked in the pockets of their coats. And then there’ll be my favourite landmark, a café where a woman will sit by the window, reading a book with a cup of coffee or tea on the table in front of her. I have an endless fascination with the city, and it is because I always sub-consciously believe that I will see this scene vividly for myself someday. Someday, I will no longer run out of time. I will have nothing to do, and will sit in a café (the brown kind, with pictures of flowers hung on the walls), and I will watch people.
I could try psychologising and say that I want to live in a café in my mind, that it represents the idyllic hidey-hole, the comforting place where I can look at people and people will not look at me. I think everybody has an idyllic dream scene in their mind too. It could be a scene of the tranquillity of a forest, where fresh green leaves reflect off the sunlight. It could be a scene of a farm, with shabby houses and a boundless sea of crops. It could be a beach, and the sea would dapple with the glow of the moon. These are spaces that may make us feel small and insignificant, but we will wallow in this insignificance. We will bask in the absence of pressure, the opportunity to observe. Just as some people camouflage among the nature of the forest, I camouflage in the ocean of people. This is why we like postcards. They always show our world in a perfect light, in a view we somehow can never capture for ourselves.
We live in a world where we matter too much. Face it, we fear our own absence. If we weren’t here anymore, what would happen to this and that? Who could fill in for us on all these tasks? There will be times when we wish people would stop observing us and expecting us to do something every single moment. At such times, why don’t you retreat into your idyllic little establishing shot? The scene before the plot has even started, before anything important ever happened, before you became necessary. A place where the waves will roar, ebb and flow with or without you, where wild animals pass you by with barely a glance.
There has never been a time when being so insignificant felt so good.