film analysis Essay

Submitted By 666moo666
Words: 766
Pages: 4

The film I will be analyzing in this paper is “Sherman's March: A Meditation on the Possibility of Romantic Love In the South During an Era of Nuclear Weapons Proliferation” directed and filmed by Ross McElwee. This 1985 documentary features McElwee originally setting out to document the lingering effects of General Sherman's march of destruction through the South during the Civil War, but after being dumped by his girlfriend prior to filming, becomes a much more ambling and personal look at the world around him. McElwee is continually sidetracked by women who come and go in his life, a quest for love, and recurring dreams of nuclear holocaust. This film provides an insightful personal take on the 80’s era, and how the past relates to ones present. In this paper I will argue that in McElwees film “Sherman’s March” he creates his own individual path of destruction paralleled to that of the legendary historical march made by general Sherman, through use of personal and humorous cinema verite.
McElwee holds that it's possible to film “an approximation of the truth that's also of interest to someone other than yourself.” This holds true to a style of personal cinema verite. McElwee seems to physically shoot scenes in a cinema vertie mode, keeping behind the camera and capturing direct shots of what is happening around him, but he edits in a more personal, dramatic manner, selectively highlighting the more engaging and individual moments he has captured. McElwee is a filmmaker-anthropologist, which is seen through the many casts of characters he meets along his journey. Right off the bat his early shot of his first female romantic interest are of her somewhat humorously provocative “cellulite exercises” she performs for McElwee. The director’s somewhat deadpan reaction to this performance is aptly on cue and amusing. McElwee’s interactions with his various female encounters paint a very interesting and diverse image of southern women and life in the 80’s. One could make the argument that this film is an important historical document of a culture and it’s people during a specific point in time. While researching the film more, I learned that in 2000 the Library of Congress National Film Registry actually chose the film for preservation, citing it as a "historically significant American motion picture."
McElwee’s personal exploration of the south paralleled to that of a historical figure’s own journey through the south is an effective way to create an individual metaphor. In one poignant scene, McElwee speaks to the camera drunk and dressed as a confederate general, having just returned from a costume party. In a whisper, as he doesn’t want to wake up his parents with whom he’s been living, he gives a surprisingly lucid analysis of Sherman’s character and draws comparisons to his own situation. The film itself, in all reality, has got little to nothing to do with Sherman's March, in a way…