Analytic Vision

“Experimental” tryout

Posted by Ştefan Alexandrescu on 23/05/2010

The premises

I went to see Dan Chisu’s first movie, “Website story” , about which you can also find Romanian chronicles here, here, here, and here.

These are the official trailers.

First trailer

Second trailer

Third trailer

Realitatea

I will make a synthesis of all you can find about the movie (not much found over the internet, actually, just repeated text): Dan Chisu is a Romanian TV show host which decided to shoot his first film as a producer, screenwriter and director as an experiment. The experiment was that there was no lines script beforehand, only the story, the actors (most of them, amateurs) played their parts on the spot (2 weeks shooting) and there were several different doubles taken, out of which (probably when the DVD will be released) the spectators will be able to construct their own version of the film, like a puzzle. The film looks also fresh because it is filmed in a videoclip-style and revolves around some videos posted on Youtube by two of the characters.

This movie isn’t what it’s stated to be

First thing’s first. The movie is intended, as the director declared, not as a bedtime story for kids, but as a waking up story for parents. That doesn’t work. One thing, because the movie is mainly addressed to the 16-24 demographic range. Another thing, because it is only intended, the way it’s filmed, as a child’s play, as a commercial movie, which it is. Therefore, it’s less likely the parents will resonate with the film’s message. Third, because it is not the film of a generation, as does the groundbreaking Romanian research “Leo Youth II” (2008) [ro, slideshare] shows. The best, Mira and Laura can be considered as representatives for suburban rebels category. This is by no means a movie which defines a generation and I think Dan Chisu should take a good look in the dictionary or on some studies before opening his mouth on making catalog judgement on Romanian society (this is not the only thing on which he opens up his mouth before thinking of the choice of words).

For another thing, the movie title leads the viewer into error, and  not only that, but also landmarks a misinterpretation as a milestone. How? You may think, if you haven’t seen the movie that it is about a website. It is not. You may think, at least, that it’s about a blog. IT IS NOT! It’s not even about web 2.0, even though the creators have made a Romanian blog and a twitter account with no postings and with just 20 followers.

“Website story” is a film about youtube postings. The creators also made some sort of campaign through the blog, but the funny thing is that most of the videos are not embedded, but linked to. What was the problem, they didn’t have enough hosting space? They could have used a cloud-computing [en, wiki] solution, as a part of web 3.0 [en, wiki] technology (in stead, they used the web 1.0 term of “website” for a clear-cut web 2.0 era behavior (that is, Youtube postings).

The moralizing end titles notify us that any user can post any kind of video on Youtube, like that would have to have some kind of “oh my God!” effect, probably over the parents, to check up on what their kids are using Youtube for… To add spice to that, like someone wrote as a comment, “they presented in the making of the camera they used [en, wiki] as it seemed a prototype landed into the hands of the film crew over the night, not knowing how to use it”.

Now this is for every person who didn’t understand how WEB 2.0 really works. Web 2.0 is an expression of democracy, people. That means it is a self-censorizing environment. For example, if I post something on wikipedia which is not true, other people correct it. If I post an article on a blog, people can comment on it. In either case, the terms of use offered by the platforms which developed the content management system [en, wiki] for the end users are enforced by the companies: videos ar removed, blogs are banned, articles get censored. So there is a level of control even in the dynamic web 2.0, as in opposition to rigid web 1.0, where everything is static: you just make a website and you don’t have to review it again. But, more important than anything in the power of web democracy is that it creates a balance for the development of content. Therefore, the alarmist and moralizing intention is hilarious. Maybe Dan Chisu should use more of the tools he’s making his films on [ro, html] , it might make his head run better.

The worst and the most offending claim Dan Chisu made, is in this interview [ro, html]. I would invite Dan Chisu on some of the Bucharest great monasteries (Like Antim [ro,wiki] or Radu Voda [ro, flash]), right in the middle of the city, during fasting periods, especially closer to Easter or to Christmas, to see how many people come to confession and how busy the priests’ skedule is during these times. Just because he is not going to church anymore, it doesn’t mean the Church doesn’t exist anymore, therefore must be replaced with Youtube. There is one thing that Dan Chisu is an atheist, it’s totally another one when he doesn’t use his reaseon to research. The affirmation is preposterous, as a PR advice for The Romanian Orthodox Church, he should get anathemized.

“Website story” is supposed to be a hint to the classical music-hall “West Side Story”. But it’s not. If you want anything closer to it, try this [en, video]. The nearest hint to a “Romeo + Juliet” story you can find in the film is that Laura gets slapped by her father in the backstage for rehearsing “Romeo + Juliet”. The music, provided pro-bono by Marius Moga [en, wiki], Dalia Pusca [ro, blog] is rather adding a shallow component to what else is a dramatic story, therefore minimising the impact of the message.

The message

Now considering I’m done with terms correcting and the how-not-to-do-a-making-of, let us take a closer look at the message of this film. On this level, the movie does offer food for thought. Even though commercial and schematic, the movie does build a case for itself. Without very well knowing what he’s doing, Dan Chisu makes a bet which he wins. In the end, he does deliver, besides a flashy story about disturbed children, a film about children psychologically abandoned by their parents. I think even if you won’t like the actors’ play or the flashy style or the other things I have mentioned until now, I consider it is a film worth to be seen, and talked about, even if only the end question of the movie, launched rather as a challenge to think about: did the main character do a good deed or a wrong deed?

This is where the movie ends. I would rather say, this is where the movie should have begun. But for what it is intended, the film surprises. Even though Dan Chisu seems not to notice it, this story is not an internet-driven film. It isn’t even a film about technology, as it may make you think. It is a good psychological look on the relationships between rich parents and neglected kids, about justice and the desire for connection and communication.There is a really dramatic side to this situation, which the movie actually takes in very well: short, incentive, cut-to-the-chase. We have a real moral dilemma. In Romania, the only justice Laura’s character can hope for is, as the boyfriend’s character suggests, is that from Heaven, and not any legal justice. So, when there is actually no justice to be served by an actual institution, how wrongfully can it be to make justice for oneself?

This movie, saw by Romanians in 2050 might offer a powerful insight on some sociological phenomenons. If Dan Chisu would have invested in this side, it could have been a great movie. The mere disadvantage, in my opinion, is that he didn’t have the courage to do that.

The artistic value

This is, in my opinion, an obvious case of a creator having a good product, but doesn’t know  which are the product’s true values. Here lies the lack of communication between screenwriting and marketing, and not only, but more. The Romanian movies, said Marcel Iures in an inteview to ProCinema in 1997, are used to showing a lot of meaningfulless events which waste the viewer’s time and don’t tell anything. The only Romanian film director which actually uses that to his advantage as a style, in my opinion, is Corneliu Porumboiu. Judged to the average Romanian productions, “Website story” is definitely superior, especially considering once-upon-a-time classics like Mircea Daneliuc and Sergiu Nicolaescu directing like they have their brains removed after the 1989 Revolution. But judging it next to what cinema is supposed to be like, “Website story” is a poor film.

The good actors in the film don’t have a lot to say because of the poor script and the consistent part of Laura, the main character, is too heavy to be played by Crina Semciuc, the UNITER awarded actress [ro, html], known for the film viewers only from the “One step forward” [en, html] series (some sort of Romanian Milla Jovovich). The actress plays the character too hysterically and without nuances.

Considering the way the story was developed, the film turned out rather more acceptable than not, for the reasons I mentioned.

For who is this a must see?

This is the film to see considering you don’t have any other one better, in the high schools, especially in the suburban Bucharest highschools. If I were a director at any of these schools, I would make a mandatory vision and discussion on questions like the following:

– did Laura did a good deed or a bad deed?

– how much was the parents’ fault in the characters’ behavior?

– what could have the characters done, in stead of going to a club, in the first place?

– how does video posting replace actual communication?

– how do the adolescents feel accepted and recognized by the parents?

– what makes you feel accepted?

– how often do you confess your sins to your priest?

– what makes a good listener for a confession?

There is a high tendency for rebel neighborhood adolescents which feel victimized by their parents to take refuge in this film and place responsibility back at the exterior (parents, school teachers, society). They might consider this to be a model. In the end, the movie tells a story of a crime that goes not only unpunished, but also promoted. What is the kind of message the adolescents will really get? Will Dan Chisu’s film add a brick to moral construction or de-construction of young people’s conscience?

It is also a must see for all people in communication: marketing, PR, advertising, social media, web 2.0, psychology. If you work in any of these fields or in anything related, you are not allowed to miss this movie. It is the only Romanian one of its kind. Until, at least, another one, better, will be made.

Without entering in further details, it is rather normal for kids at this age to seek acceptance and confirmation of their value and identity, in the parents’ eyes. The real conflict begins when from different reasons (the poor parents work too much, sometimes in other countries, and the rich parents neglect their children) the parents don’t understand them. It is only then when communication via internet becomes rather a refuge from communication, and in some cases, a weapon. A weapon of getting attention by saying: “hey, “Im there, I have something to say”.

Merely watching the movie as a film lover and a socio-psychological instant of the Romanian society, I do have a marketing suggestion for all the communication-practicing readers of this post. Watching the numbers, attentively studying the demographics, the young people, the wannabe brilliant future for Romania, have growing frustrations which will turn into raging frustrations. Considering the trends, you’d better position your campaigns as crowdsourcing-driven and community-driven and less agency-driven. This, in the long run, will make the difference between the brands that will make a smashing hit and the brands which will continue to suck money from communication budgets. And I’m not only considering the web-based components / businesses.

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7 Responses to ““Experimental” tryout”

  1. You’ve done it once more! Great writing.

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  2. If only more people could hear this.

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