No, it’s not because I have a crush on E. Wood
It’s going to seem somewhat hypocritical of me to write a lengthy article about why I hate found-on-footage film and then discuss why I enjoy a movie where most everything was filmed in first-person perspective. However, these two film types are used for drastically different stylistic reasons. First-person is becoming a new experimental way of shooting for big-budget companies, all the while found-on-footage found its origin among independent film studios . While first-person sequences popped up in movies during the 90’s, we are now seeing movies where the entirety of the movie is shot in this perspective. For example, Hardcore Henry was entirely known for its shooting from the main characters view, and was sold to be some sort of “mix between video game and movie” for the neutral stance of the character’s hands resting on screen mimicked that of a first-person shooter. This was not well received, however, for the perspective was little more than a gimmick that claimed to “reinvent” action movies.
First-person shooting is supposed to fully put the audience in the mindset of the protagonist, allowing us to take in surroundings, actions, and developments of story at the same pace and time as the main character. This worked especially well in Maniac, for when this awkward, paranoid serial killer would enter a new room we were allowed to see the organic curiosity that comes with it: picking up and examining items, seeing what points they focused on, and even slight turns of the head gave us a certain insight to the character that is otherwise missed from a third-person perspective. This contrasts drastically with found-on-footage shooting, for this is not used to put us in the mindset of whomever is holding the camera, but rather tries to immerse us in the adrenaline-pumping situations the character has found themselves in.
If you’re not familiar with the plot of Maniac let me give you a brief rundown of this family-friendly feature: Frank, a paranoid schizophrenic mannequin store owner tries to suppress sexual desires and memories of his mother by murdering any and all women that show interest in him. Be it a random online date, local art student, or helpless bystander, Frank scalps his victims and then adorns mannequins in his “workshop” with their hair and clothes, believing the figures to then hold life.
While mental illness is a touchy subject in today’s media (if the reception that Split received is any indication) I feel as if Maniac approached the topic carefully and respectfully through its style of filming. If anything, Frank was one of the few killers in cinema that I felt sympathy for. And this is because I was able to see his delusions and fear first-hand. One of the most powerful scenes in the movie was when Frank was sitting at a dinner table on a lovely tinder-esque date and he turns suddenly to see the entire restaurant staring at him in silence. I experienced the uneasiness and paranoia along with him, making it all the harder to dislike him when you realize he’s only killing to silence his inner demons.
There is one minor problem with this medium however; it turns screen actors into voice actors. Elijah Wood is always a blast to watch and his name is what put a lot of butts in seats to see this film (he’s a lot cuter than the original movie’s protagonist). However, we rarely SEE him perform besides in the reflection of the occasional mirror or car window. Having to rely solely on his voice for acting purposes (for I’m not even certain he was allowed to hold the camera for filming), his performance was much weaker because of it.
But on the bright side, perhaps this new filming style will create more jobs for voice actors. Their line of work is a tough one.
Okay and yes its because I have a crush on Elijah Wood. I love that lil’ hobbit.