Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Where's the Money Ronnie?

'Where's the Money Ronnie?' directed by Shane Meadows

I had an interesting class on the Animation & Visualisation MSc course this week. We were asked to critique short films or animations which made interesting use of story.

I chose 'Where's the Money Ronnie' because the choice to give conflicting information to the audience made what would otherwise be a simple linear narrative very rich and complex. The film is comprised of four police interviews featuring men who were involved in a series of violent incidents including armed robbery and murder. Each man, Jock, Ronnie, Benny and Zico give contradictory accounts which are sometimes supported and sometimes contradicted by the camera showing the events as they unfolded.

Lines such as;

Police: 'Why did you do the robbery?'
Benny Bould: 'Why?... Why? or did I?'

Benny: 'Ronnie forced me to do this robbery cos I owed him some cash' ..then later.. 'I had to get the cash, 'cos I had to do my own decorating'


Ronnie: 'I'm starting to get the feeling that I, have become the victum, of a conspiracy' ..then later.. 'I shot two, I killed two.. yeah, and I don't feel the liest bit bad about that'

give a sense of the humor in the contradictions and illogical lies that the men tell.

The story was inspired by Akira Kurosawa's 'Rachomon' in which four conflicting witness accounts are given of a rape and a murder. The narrator, a nameless woodcutter, is the most objective and dismisses the other accounts as lies. In Meadows' film we don't trust any party to be telling the truth and it is the camera that acts as narrator. This footage showing the events only serves to complicate things as it sometimes serves to corroberate one of the characters stories and sometimes serves to contradict, never giving a clear picture of the course of events.

I enjoyed the improvisational style of the piece, Meadows produces a believable and exciting performance from his non actor cast. The contradiction continues into the cinematic language which is both raw and confident; The title credits tell us that the film is a 'big arty production', this can be read as a joke, Meadows thumbing his nose at the snobbery of the British film scene with his cheaply made production (at the time anything shot on video was not considered worthy in the film festival world). It can also be read as highlighting Meadows juxtaposition of avant garde narrative values and references to Kurosawa with his down and dirty presentation and subject matter.

The police interview language of the film is a very efficient and stylised device (the police are never featured on camera, we only see the suspects in close up). Meadows uses a titling portrait technique similar to that used by Guy Ritchie in 'Lock Stock', however Ritchie's use is purely stylistic while Meadows uses the formatting of a police report complete with charges for the titles. This supports the language of the film as a whole as well as orientating the audience, allowing them to begin their own detective work.

I hope to learn from Meadows' execution for my own work, being free to collaberate and improvise while filming and achieving a definitive style which is always working in the service of the film as a whole.