CLOSE VIEWING – Winter’s Bone
When we watch films, we enter another time and space. We enter a world we may or may not be familiar with. We travel someplace else without even moving our bodies. When we watch films, we suspend judgement, allowing ourselves to believe what we’re seeing in order to enjoy what’s unfolding before us.
To help the audience participate, the filmmakers have some things up their sleeves that they can do. Things that are subtle, small, that melt into the scene, quietly aiding in building the world the audience is experiencing.
It’s all in the details. How the characters dress, what they’re occupying their hands with, the objects of their life, the small details of their world. Details let us further into their lives and help us relate to them, believe they’re real. Those details might not be apart of the main storyline; they provide no obvious obstacles or aid to the characters, but rather help to flesh out their world. Nevertheless, details tell us about the characters in one way or another.
In Winter’s Bone, the wardrobe hugely lets us into Ree’s world. It tells of the kind of people who are in the story. Lots of plaid, jeans, boots, heavy coats and sweaters. Earth colors, browns, greens. Their clothes are worn. They could have been handed down though the family, or worn down from working. One gets the impression that the people of Winter’s Bone are hardworking, doing what they can to survive. Even Ree’s necklace she always wears speaks of survival, a tribal-esk tooth of some sort hanging on string. Wardrobe can also tell of status. The head honcho probably dresses differently from those under them.
Often in art-house or independent films, there are shots that are geared towards world building, supporting the story by showing us what else is happening in that world. They aren’t exactly inserts or establishing shots. The filmmakers have taken a moment to peer closer and observe. These type of shots show the cluttered world of Winter’s Bone, the quiet force of nature, what characters do in their free time. Through these shots the audience feels as if they’re actually there, observing the goings-on of this place.
Props. Belongings. They speak of the characters, giving them life and believability. Throughout the film, Ree returns to the closet full of her dad’s clothes. His scent and memory linger on though his coats and shirts, and Ree goes to them when he’s on her mind. Although he has left Ree and her family, Jessup is still her dad. You can feel the conflicting emotions going on inside of Ree as she looks at her father’s clothes.
Or Ree’s little sister. Her toy horses tell us of her childlike nature, her love for animals. But also of a special connection between her and her father. A small handmade horse, crafted especially for her. Or in the end, Ree sits with her brother and sister, and they cradle baby chickens. They chirp, swaddled in blankets. They are young and full of potential. Ree’s sister plucks at a banjo, once belonging to her father. And there is a feeling of new beginnings, and comfort.
The wardrobe, the shots dedicated to observation, the props, they all immerse us into the world of the film, adding to its believability in little ways, bringing the characters to life. In this way it’s the details that matter the most, that allow us to enter into another time and space.
Screenshot of my video essay in Final Cut Pro: