The importance of an opening scene. How to attract spectators?

No Direction Home

“… no direction home…”  is a quote from the song “Like a Rolling Stone” by Bob Dylan which  Martin Scorsese masterfully used  to identify the mood and a topic of the eponymous documentary.

The scene starts with an archival video of a concert (as there are no titles, we do not know the year of the performance) where spectators could recognize the famous singer. If the film would have been started with black and white photographs made in Dylan’s childhood that would not give many clues to viewers on what the film is about. The song is interrupted in a very rigid manner and we almost crush into the white frame. What can we feel about that? The first thought is that something wrong with an internet connection or the video was damaged while uploading. Appearing trees show that everything is fine with the film. Trees are the symbol of life, the symbol of wisdom and the symbol of genealogical history.  9 seconds of silence give us time to think about some unexpected turns that occurs in our lives. And viewers are wondering what has happened to the singer? What was the cause of this silence? Is it the creative crisis or something terrible suddenly affected the singer’s destiny?  When we finally hear a calm Dylan’s voice, we already know that his life was not a fairytale.

Now, when we know that the documentary is about Bob Dylan, it is acceptable to use old photographs.

The song “Drifting too far from the shore” is another nice discovery. However, at first it is hard to understand why we hear the song that was not performed by Bob Dylan. The singer remembers his childhood, tells the story how he started to play guitar and eventually introduces the country record that impressed him.

The background for the interview with the singer is dark and little out of focus. We cannot recognize the place – it is an abstract area, neither a house nor a studio.  We clearly see the face and a shoulder that means they have used back light and filling light while shooting. The other shoulder and the half of the singer’s face are dark, so it gives us evidence that they did not have a key light.

The part about a “disappearing” town in Minnesota includes the interview, an archival video as a B-roll, old photographs and an unknown music. This part illustrates a tough childhood, and spectators learn that Bob Dylan was not always a singer and started his career in an electric store which belonged to his family.

This opening scene gives us a feeling that the film is not about music and Bob Dylan’s success as a singer. The film is about finding a place where he belongs to. And we know that it is a long way to go.  

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