I am still struggling to rip the scenes I need from My Sjostrom DVD, so in the meantime I'll share a bit about landscapes from two online writers that I disagree with.
To start, I found Stewart McKie's article on Sys-Con Media, titled "The Role of Landscape in Film." He lists some of my favorite movies: Lawrence of Arabia, Dances with Wolves, Aguirre: The Wrath of God, etc., and goes on to describe the ways in which the landscapes within them "add additional depth to a story or the situation that characters find themselves in." I don't have a problem with that statement. In fact, I'd agree with most of what McKie says, when he includes a list of ways that landscapes can work in film:
- Reinforce themes
- "Raise the stakes"
- Create emotional highs
- Emphasise contrasting worlds
- Act as a character in its own right
But he leaves out an important element that I think Martin Lefebvre is keen to observe in the introduction to his volume, "Landscape and Film." Lefebvre's essential addition is that observation of landscapes often results in a removal or break from the narrative, because it privileges the aesthetics over the plot. McKie only discusses landscapes in ways that are more immersive to the viewer in the world of the story, if not the story itself. He sees landscapes not as opportunities for pause from narrative, but as extra tools to maintain the film's pull on the viewer, to root them in the story. I don't deny that what McKie says can happen, but I don't think landscape is always or merely an immersive element.
Yet again as I sought another online writer, I found Renee, a blogger and film-maker who again sees landscape as an opportunity to latch ever more strongly to the "world" or "atmosphere" of the story. In her case, she speaks of having worked on the movie "Twilight" as a painter, and discovered the ways that landscapes were so powerful to people. There is a real town called "Forks" on which Twilight fans have descended, because as Renee puts it, the land and landscape are a way to "enter into the story through a real-world portal." And that's something they tried to recreate on the set of Twilight.
So I'm bumped up against the question that challenges my assertion: Does landscape really immerse us more in the story, or does it offer us an opportunity to step back from it? Or both?