What makes a movie great?
A good script?
‘Led Zeppelin’ background score?
Or exotic locations as its setting?
I know you’d say a masterpiece will require a perfect melody of all these notes.
But if we divert a little from the conventional cinema, you’ll realize there’s a lot more to filmmaking than you think you know.
Sometimes the screenplay holds the entire weight of the movie and it’s only the genius of the director to keep the audience hooked even if the setting for the whole movie is just a dinner table.
Yes,you read it right,one single setting for 90 minutes or more.No wonder this list is dominated by brilliant directors like Tarantino and Hitchcock.
Here are a few great movies shot on a minimalist setting :
First in the Alfred Hitchcock’s ‘limited setting’ films,this survival thriller drama is the most underrated work of the Master of Suspense.
With so many characters present in a constricted space as that of a lifeboat,this was an unsusual framing challenge took on and marvellously completed by Hitchcock.It was based on a novella by John Steinback and revolves around some American and British civilians in a lifeboat who have survived a shipwreck caused by a German submarine ,the group allow a German officer (Walter Slezak) to board the already crowded lifeboat.But his presence only increases the discord.Treachery ensues and the population of the vessel gradually decreases as conflicts come to a head.
Two young men inspired by the ideology of only letting the intellectually superior men live,host a dinner party to celebrate the perfect murder they carried out in their very house.However,RupertCadell; their professor whose lectures inadvertantly inspired the killing ,finds them suspicious and starts probing them.It is one of the most experimental films of Hitchcock and goes on to abandon standard film techniques to allow for the long unbroken scenes shot majorly in just one room. It focuses more on how the characters look,sound and move and how the overall spectacle of perfect crime goes wrong rather than character development.And yet manages to portray the fear of getting caught,the arrogance of being better than the people in the room and the air of doubt between the three perfectly.
REAR WINDOW (1954)
Yet another Hitchcock mystery but definitely the best one.A professional photographer, recuperating from a broken leg is stuck in his room and so are the viewers.We only see what he gets to see from his window;a restricted view of his neighborhood.With nothing to do,he starts spying on his neighbors and comes across something dubious.Throughout the movie,we only get information from Jefferies’ (James Stewart) point of view,which heightens the suspense even more and makes us doubt his suspicions over and over again.This movie is bound to keep you hooked for sure.
12 ANGRY MEN (1957)
A masterpiece blessed upon the world by Sidney Lumet,this movie is a mind boggling tale of 12 jurors deliberating a young man’s guilt or acquittal in a closed room.From amazing acting to smart camera angles,the master of cinema’s first feature film is the precise definition of a great ‘limited setting’ movie.No violence is shown on screen but the vivid discussion paints an accurate picture in our heads.The jurors are forced to question their own morals and values, and so are we.Not everything in this world is as plain as it seems and as the layers are revealed,the movie gets even more tensed.We can feel the claustrophobia,the tension felt by the jurors and that’s how powerful Lumet’s direction is.One of my personal favorites,this movie is a must watch for those who love cinema.
THE MAN FROM EARTH (2007)
Ever wished for immortality?
How cool would it be to witness the evolution of mankind.This is the very idea explored in Jerome Bixby’s MAN FROM EARTH.
John Oldman,a university professor before leaving town for unknown reasons engages his friends in a hypothetical conversation,about a man who doesn’t age and has been living for over 14000 years.He later reveals that he is that cromagnon ; the man they were discussing the possibility of existing.
Directed by Richard Schenkman ,this science fiction is much on the philosophical side and takes place only in the living room of the protagonist with mere dialogue doing the plot development.It’s 90 minutes of intellectually stimulating conversation with the thrill of not being sure if any of it is real.Those looking for some great cinema ,this is the one you shouldn’t miss.
HATEFUL EIGHT (2015)
A mix of action,humour and over the top violence ,hateful eight is another one of Tarantino’s unconventional masterpieces.A bounty hunter and his captured fugitive caught in the midst of a snowstorm seek refuge in a small lodge with six other strangers.Whatever ensues in that lodge overnight is sure as hell a thrilling ride.For all those grotesque bloodshed lovers,Tarantino will not disappoint you with this one.