A picture described by naysayers as a slow and a critically hyped movie. Yes, it features scenes with silence and a character that speaks rarely but what is the criticism more pointed at? The movie creates an atmosphere with its slow burning poison of storytelling with time-jumps that leave an audience to imagine the characters life. Laziness engulfs the viewer for not being participative.
Is it wrong for a director to expect his/her audience to fill in between the lines, to imagine their own story for the character whom they have known? Let’s leave these critiques aside to focus on the beauty of the film.
When I see characters on screen I observe them with the intention of knowing them and the writer usually helps me with it by letting them speak their thoughts. With Moonlight it was the exact opposite. I got to know Chiron with a curiosity because of his nature to not speak much. Instead of him, I got to know him by the surroundings he was trapped in. At the end of the movie, it felt like I knew Chiron as I knew my best friends and that too under 2 hours. It is a magnificent feat attained by the writer and I thank him for making me a better person.
Movies for me serve a purpose, a purpose which varies day by day, story by story. But one thing remains ingrained in my head. Movies are written for an audience and I have a service to provide to them. I can’t give them tangible things but I can give them an idea, a question to ponder, some revelation about themselves, a feeling that stays with them and to make them a better human being.
Moonlight was one of those movies that made me question my life, my decisions as a human being rather than a filmmaker. It made me ponder the question “What makes me cry?”, “Who I really am?”.
The blurry world of Moonlight deftly captured by the cinematographer lets us focus on the characters but with no ignorance of the setting. The structure of Moonlight with chapters dedicated to each transformation of the character was a great technique to separate phases in Chiron’s life.
i. little – a period of introduction to himself, where we are introduced to him. The bullying aspect of it. What did his environment think of him? little.
ii. Chiron – A period of transformation where he actually hits the guy he is bullied by. He confronts his true self by kissing his close friend Kevin. Ends tragically so he again changes to..
iii. Black – A nickname provided to him by his friend Kevin. The period in jail has transformed him into a thug. A tough exterior he builds up to protect him from the bullying that he faced. He becomes a drug-dealer himself like his saviour Juan. He is called black because he still holds the memory of Kevin dear to him even though he betrayed him. He finally confronts his true self again and visits Kevin letting the character be given a release.
The change between the chapters is marked by the black screen and a light symbolising Chiron’s thought process with the blue light meaning “tackling his real self” and the red light meaning “the tough exterior he has built up”. The cinematography is visually aggressive and the constant fixation on blue matches with the mood of the movie.
These are some beautiful moments in Moonlight.
- Slowed down visuals of her mother coming out of her room and berating Chiron with no sounds.
- When in the 2nd chapter Chiron’s mother comes out of the house facing withdrawal symptoms and talks to him, the sounds and the visuals don’t match giving the viewer an experience close to what she is feeling.
- The scene where Juan takes little to the beach and teaches him how to swim. The whole scene is shot at sea-level and the water sweeps the camera now and then creating a dreamy feel.
- When Chiron walks into his school to hit his bully with the chair. We only see Chiron’s back and we follow him through the school building up to the moment when we see him hitting the chair. The frustration is conveyed through the camera with purpose.