Wednesday, February 11, 2015

"Boyhood" director has created more than just a movie

    In my opinion, Richard Linklater is a “Big C” creative.  His most recent film, “Boyhood,” is destined to change the world of cinematography forever. Not only has Linklater created a touching coming-of-age story, he has also created an entirely new way to conceptualize the art of cinema.
    All movies must address the passing of time at least indirectly: time passes as the characters live out the film, as the actors shoot the film, and as the audience watches the film. Most directors rely on their audiences to suspend their disbelief by either ignoring the fact that time has passed or accepting the use of different characters to portray vast gaps in time. However, Linklater brings the issue of time passing to the forefront by making it a key feature of his film. To do so, he filmed “Boyhood” over a 12 year period.  He began filming back in 2002 when his leading actor, Ellar Coltrane, was only seven years old.  By shooting a few days each year until Coltrane reached age 18, Linklater authentically captured the life of an American youth from childhood to high school graduation. This is a feat that had never been done before.
    Although the film is a work of fiction, what makes Linklater so successful in his filmmaking is his ability to create moments that are both natural and poignant.  The creativity behind his work does not result in fantastical characters or never-before-seen plot twists, but rather, a depiction of everyday life that makes audiences feel something.  Through watching Coltrane grow up on screen, audiences share in Coltrane’s childhood in a way that has never been done before.  Such filmmaking tears down the wall between actor and audience as well as the disconnect between the actor and the character he is portraying.  Ellar Coltrane and his on-screen persona Mason have a relationship like no other: they actually grew up together.
    Linklater creates this extreme realism by seeking out actors he deems authentic and natural, even if they are not professionals, instead of just casting “big name” actors.  He draws on  real life experiences as inspiration for his films--such as his parents’ divorce which provides the model for Mason’s parents--and in doing so captures emotions that aren’t staged or forced--they’re real. He relies largely on his instincts to produce such authenticity, but also cites endless rehearsals as a key to his success. He also uses music to mark both authenticity and the passage of time--he uses the progression of music--from early 2000’s pop to more recent hits--to serve as a timeline. 
    The groundbreaking element of the film--the fact that it was filmed over a span of 12 years--came to Linklater in a way very similar to the description of “insight” provided by Jason van Steenburgh, Jessica I. Fleck, Mark Beeman, and John Kounios.  Just as these thinkers define insight as a kind of “A-ha! moment” that results in a new interpretation and solution to an ongoing problem, Linklater similarly reported the idea coming to him all at once.  He had been trying to figure out how to make a film on growing up in a non-cliché way for a long time before the new idea sprang into his head.  
    The movie’s trailer concludes with critic Andrew O’Hehir’s pronouncement that it is “A masterpiece that isn’t quite like anything else in the history of cinema.” While critics’ claims tend  to be huge exaggerations that bear no relation to the actual movie, this one lives up to the hype. Linklater’s film is both revolutionary in its cinematography and normal in its content.  It is both shocking and believable. It is truly one of a kind and unquestionably creative.
Van Steenburgh, Fleck, Beeman, Kounios, "Insight."


  1. I have heard really good things about this movie and hope that I'm able to see it soon. I agree with your claim that Linklater deserves credit for his creativity. To me movies that are often deemed to be creative are described this way because they have done something new with special effects. Linklater has rather done something especially new by focusing on an entirely different element of film-making. In my opinion, what is really incredible is not so much the idea itself but Linklater's commitment to his idea. Social psychologist Teresa Amabile has found that creative innovations usually occur as a result of intrinsic motivation as opposed to the allure of external reward. To have filmed over twelve long years I am sure that this proved to be the case for Linklater. Though he certainly felt that he had achieved something special after the result, I expect he gained as much out of his enjoyment of the process.

  2. I saw Boyhood when Loyola had it showing for free in Damen. I thought it was fantastic. While watching, I forgot that the plot was fiction. It seemed so real and definitely resonated with me. Despite having a different upbringing than the character, I could still relate to his experiences. Watching the characters grow up made the story seem more real than the typical movie. I agree with Matthew, Linklater truly did come up with something new. Getting the actors to commit to the twelve year program is an amazing feat, especially considering two of the main character were children. It was a huge commitment for everyone involved, and shows a large amount of dedication on the cast's and crew's parts. While I would love to see more movies created this way, I doubt that it will happen anytime soon Because of the huge time commitment, I think these types of films will only come out every once in a while.


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