Trying to capture the essence of life on film always feels like one of those impossible tasks – like trying to capture sunlight in a jar or deleting a U2 album from iTunes. Many have tried, most recently noteworthy directors Terence Malick and Richard Linklater, few have succeeded. The latest filmmaker to take an ambitious stab at capturing a slice of humanity (in this instance focusing on “growing-up”) in all its 4k glory is Mishka Kornai, with his 16-minute short Growth.
“Growing older is like a line because it never stops.”
As a fairly new member to the parenthood club, Kornai’s film feels like it’s doing what all us parents desperately try to do on a daily basis – capture the rapid growth of our children as they transform right before our eyes. Aiming to explore ‘the complexity, subtlety, and beauty of growing up’, Growth follows its subjects (75+ “unique” individuals) as they discuss their own personal theories on the aging process – from the innocence of youth to the fragilities of life.
Shot entirely from an overhead perspective, though this approach has already been seen in recent shorts Me & You and God View, Kornai’s use of this shooting technique feels like an apt and well-considered approach to his narrative. Whilst Jack Tew’s film used the unusual point-of-view to catalogue key moments in the relationship of a young couple and Billy Lumby’s short used it to place his audience in the mindset of his troubled protagonist, Kornai’s birds-eye camera view has an altogether different effect – the one of making you feel like a celestial being, looking down from the heavens above. Creating his striking cinematography by mounting his camera to either a crane or drone, Growth’s observational feel means his documentary not only takes on an impartial tone, but also makes you, as the viewer, feel as if you taken on the role of scientist watching organisms under a microscope – something that had obviously crossed the director’s mind when creating his film. “It struck me how similar different forms of growth are when viewed from above”, says Kornia in an interview on dolby.com, “urban expansion mirrors the growth of microorganisms. The patterns of blood vessels are almost identical to the flowing forms of rivers and tributaries. Even the distribution of city lights looks just like the veins of a leaf when seen from space”.
Though the filmmaker admits the shooting style came with its problems (long set-ups), it seems the positives of this approach, far outweighed the negatives – “The subjects we were shooting forgot all about the camera above them and so acted extremely naturally” says Kornia, “In fact, my crew and I tried to remain out of sight as often as possible; we used a wireless monitor and observed from afar….And for viewers, I find that the from-above perspective tends to make people more objective. When you see a person’s face onscreen, your subconscious tends to take over, drawing your attention to their race, their age, their physical appearance, and so on. When you’re viewing people from above, this new perspective helps eliminate opportunities for preconceptions and judgments. Viewers tell me they can easily place themselves in the scene they’re watching.”
If you’re a regular to Short of the Week, but don’t recognise the name Mishka Kornai, you might be surprised to learn you’ve probably seen his work before. Although his directorial work might be new to you, you may have seen his cinematography talents on show in our previously featured shorts Expo and Straight Down Low and with a string of Vimeo Staff Picked music videos and high profile commercials also in his back catalogue, Kornai is a filmmaker whose stock is rapidly rising. Be sure to keep up-to-date with his work at his website, or view some of his other work on his Vimeo page.