George Dumpson's Place
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The majority of films nowadays are easy to understand. They no longer make us think of what its directors wanted us to realize or what exactly they wanted us to feel. In other words, the ideas that films carry are so apparent that there is no chance for us to decide what a particular scene means. George Dumpson’s Place, a film by Ed Emshwiler, is an example of a short-film that can be interpreted in a lot of different ways depending on who is watching it. To someone it may seem like a film about mountains of garbage, to me it seemed to be a film about a man’s soul.
It is easy to notice that the film starts and ends with the “bookending” device that visually links the establishing shot with the reestablishing shot. I think that the idea behind it is to help us understand that almost eight minutes of the film are captured not to show us a man’s house or other scenery, but rather to tell us a story.
In fact, there are tons of different objects and things captured in the film. However, I think that while featuring the man’s place and everything he had there, Ed Emshwiler intends to tell us about George Dumpson’s internal world. He wants to show us what this lonely man treasures most of all, his thoughts and feelings he carries deep in his heart. It is interesting how Emshwiler manages to create a metaphor of a George Dumpson’s soul by showing old things this scavenger has once found and kept.
As we see, George does not collect anything he needs to keep him alive. He is not looking for food or clothes, but rather for the things he wants to have to meet his inner needs. Thus, there are old photos of some kids, broken clocks, a lot of toys and old souvenir sculptures at his place. At some point I thought that there were so many things that it was really hard to detect which of them were the most important and the dearest to George. However, Ed Emshwiler gives us some tips by using visual details.
The one I have noticed first of all is a statue of Jesus holding American flag. The camera is being held on it for a few seconds as if the director wants to make an emphasis. It made me think of George Dumpson’s believes. He might not be a Christian, but the fact that such a statue has its place at his home speaks for itself and means that God has a place in his life. The American flag in Jesus’ hands is a sign of a deep patriotism. Maybe, George Dumpson does not do anything for his country, but in his heart he is a patriot or maybe he wants to be and this flag in Jesus’ hands makes him feel more comfortable.
It is impossible not to notice a lot of dolls and toys at George Dumpson’s place. I think this is another visual detail. Ed Emshwiler uses it even more than five times throughout the film. There are dolls inside as well as outside of the house. George Dumpson is a grown-up. I am sure he does not collect them just to play. However, I can suppose that these dolls and toys all over the place comfort him. They may remind him of children he has lost in some way, or let him dream of children he has never had.
Ed Emshwiler uses visual perspective while filming the outside of the “house”. All the passes seem quite long because of visual perspective being well utilized. Hence, there is a sense that the place where George Dumpson lives is quite a big one. Besides, there is an emphasis made on spatial depth for metaphoric effect. Some of the objects, especially inside of a house can be more clearly viewed than others for that reason. Therefore, the director makes it easier for us to understand the film.
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Probably, one of the most interesting things in this film is mise-en-scene. I liked the set design as I think it helps to visualize the metaphor. At first, I did not understand why there were so many objects and because of them it was hard to single out something I want to look at. However, when I watched the film and understood what it was about, I realized that the set design is composed in such a way to give us a clue of how many different thoughts a man’s head can hold. Another thing about set design is that Ed Emshwiler starts filming outside the house and further continues inside. Such a trick lets the audience feel the spirit of mystery, the spirit of something that is hidden in the house. There is a permanent feeling that something is to happen and as the camera gets into the house it is easy to understand that this is the moment of culmination. Therefore, this way of filming amplifies the feeling of getting into someone’s deepest secrets or in this case into the thoughts of George.
As to camera work inside of the house, it is not only the set design that matters, but lighting as well. It is great that Ed Emshwiler uses a flashlight while recording a scene in the house. By directing the flashlight on certain things, on particular toys, sculptures and photos, he emphasizes which of them are of great significance to our hero. I think that everyone will agree that anything put in the spot of the light while the darkness is all around will make the audience think carefully of what that object might mean. Aside from the emphasis, the darkness and the light of flashlight on George’s stuff make it look like something sacred and in it turn helps to represent the metaphor used by Ed Emshwiler. At the same time the usage of the flashlight consequences in shadows being all around. They conceal a lot of things and create a sense of a mystery, which is only one more plus to the metaphor of the film as there is no greater mystery in the world than the inner world of a man, Ed Emshwiler is trying to feature. In fact, Ed Emshwiler’s mise-en-scene is excellent. Especially if taking into the consideration the fact that he told a story with no words and no actors.
Summing it all up, George Dumpson’s Place by Ed Emshwiler is a short film that gives the audience its own space to imagine and learn. It lets us decide what we see while watching it. There are no words and no famous actors. Nevertheless, there are a lot of emotions with the help of which Ed Emshwiler tells us a story about feelings and needs of a man who lived a difficult life but still valued the most important things in life.
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