This may be a spoiler, but if nothing else, an encouragement to go see Sofia Coppola’s new film Somewhere. It’s really more of an anti-film. It is told as a poem on screen; where the camera, and not dialogue or characters direct the flow of the film. In almost stanza-like format, the film privileges the abstract resonance and feeling of the shot more then it does the plot, or character, which most Hollywood feature films favor. The New York Times review of Somewhere goes into more detail of the story than I care to go into here.
Characters aren’t introduced properly, much is left up to inference, and any notion of filmic symmetry is thrown out the window. Coppola has clearly mastered the long takes, and wide camera angles to capture action, a technique borrowed from Antonioni. This technique enables the action of the film to become more privileged than a typical film does. In Somewhere, the field of action comes alive and draws the viewer into its progression, in many ways more powerfully than does a highly mediated character driven story.
Because the film is driven by filmic affect, the viewer enters into a different emotional response to the content. This technique enables the subject of the film to be the viewer. Everything proceeds as if the camera accidently caught the scene; like an almost accidental observer. This effect makes for a striking reality TV-esque style that captures the gritty obverse side of the shot.
The film makes powerful statements about alienation and the body, which I plan to develop at a later time. The life of the main character expresses a sense of alienation that everyone can relate to in a way. He maintains a depth and a sense of humanity despite the fact that his entire life is taken from him. Objectively, he leads the life that many only dream of. He is single, every-night he hits the booze, cigarettes and a different woman in the sac. His deep existential despair stems not only from the fact that this routine is meaningless, but from the fact that he has no control over changing it.
He is body and nothing else. The film presents this idea of body as an empty instrument, stripped from any sex appeal. When in the beginning of the film Stephen Dorff’s character has broken his wrist and has two girls lap dance in his hotel room to make him feel better, we see an interesting commentary on the mechanical . The sheer objectivity of the dancers and their rote repetition is far from sexy.
The most interesting part of the film is its abrupt ending with Stephen Dorff walking into the open highway desert and embracing the lack of place and uprootedness of his situation. A more conventional ending would have been for him to settle down, reconcile with his daughter, etc. Instead, the film ends where it begins, as a poetic coming to ease with the placelessness of postmodern existence.
The film represents Coppola’s crowning achievement.