Time capsule? Or time crapsule?

With John Malkovich making the world’s first time-capsule film, Imogen Scott-Chambers uncovers other madder-than-mad filmic experiments and discusses whether they’re worth the hype

7th December 2015

Given the recent crazy news that John Malkovich and Robert Rodriguez are making a film that won’t be shown for a century, I wanted to take a look at similarly crazy film experiments from over the years.

Taking it back to basics, Disney’s first feature film Snow White and the Seven Dwarves was branded ‘experimental’ at the time, it was predicted to be a massive flop - an 83 minute film using pure animation - what was Walt thinking?! Well, apparently, Walt Disney was a genius, as the film was a massive success grossing $8 million upon its initial release, a groundbreaking amount for the time and going on to gross $416 million in total. So for anyone out there thinking that Malkovich has lost his marbles, in 100 years, if anyone is still alive, maybe they will be eating their words.

I am sure Malkovich and Rodriguez know what they’re doing

In contemporary times, there have been some intriguing film experiments worthy of a mention. For example, Richard Linklater’s Boyhood in which the film is shot over a 12 year period with the same cast. It depicts the growth (literally) of one boy and the changing family dynamic around him. The film was groundbreaking for taking such a risk in choosing a child actor to follow for 12 years because if he hadn’t developed as a good actor over the course of the years, any previous footage could have been a complete waste of time. Luckily the risk paid off and the film is an honest depiction of one boy’s journey to adulthood.

Some interesting innovation in film-making came in the form of the found-footage film, with perhaps the most successful example of this being The Blair Witch Project. The film was created on a meagre budget of $22,000, but it grossed $250 million at the box office leaving millions of viewers in complete suspense as a lot of people hadn’t seen anything like it.

One of my favourite films which is groundbreaking in some ways is Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs. To begin with, it was Tarantino’s debut film, and his arrival to the world of directing undeniably changed the world of film forever. It is one of the only heist films which does not show the actual heist in question taking place and with only 6 main characters and 10 characters in the whole movie, the detailed character study and drama makes the film very unique and stylish. Furthermore, many have called it an influential milestone in independent filmmaking because the style and form was like nothing that had ever been seen before with the purposeful erratic editing, quirky depiction of time and extreme violence.

In 100 years, maybe people will be eating their words

Additionally, the extremely compelling film Memento was experimental in that it is one of the first films to play around with time in such a diverse way. It has also been hailed as one of the most accurate representations of short-term memory loss in cinema, this was an alternative kind of storytelling for a mainstream film to take, changing the way filmmakers thought about how to portray a story. The use of black and white scenes and colour scenes to tell different stories also adds to the unconventionality of Memento.

After considering some of the crazy cinematic experiments that have been extremely successful, I am sure Malkovich and Rodriguez know what they are doing. Unless someone discovers the key to immortality pretty soon, the fate of 100 Years is in the hands of future generations.

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