One of the things that really fascinates me about documentary filmmaking is the visual sense that goes into really well-produced docs. Last night I watched Objectified and it really got me thinking about how important it is to have a cohesive aesthetic approach to a film, even if you’re working with a limited budget and the spontaneity documentary film sometimes requires.
Objectified, as well as Gary Hurstwit’s other movies, are all about design, so it stands to reason they would be stylized to an extreme. What I find really interesting about Objectified, which I did not notice quite as much in Helvetica, was that the locked-down straight-on shooting style he used for the film really underlined the importance of the objects being filmed, even something as small as a toothpick was given this great weight onscreen. The filmmaking purposefully got out of the way of the subject, choosing simple angles, geometric framing and minimal movement to underline the simplicity and the importance of the objects being filmed.
Conversely, it’s pretty obvious that very little of Objectified was spontaneous - that was a film where aesthetics were the story, so they had to be as close to flawless as possible.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how In Defense of Fat will look onscreen. If you watched many food documentaries, you’ll notice the styles really run the gamut, from “we shot this on miniDV without much planning” to something like Food, Inc or the Botany of Desire which are beautiful films that obviously gave a lot of thought to the visual sense of things as they crafted the story.