Monday, December 28, 2015

Speech without words

Bill Murray and Emma Stone
I bought the Cameron Crowe movie Aloha on DVD recently because it was cheap and because of an appealing cast, which includes Bill Murray and Emma Stone. I watched it the other night expecting a romantic comedy but finding instead a drama (with a wee bit of comedy) that I enjoyed more than I had hoped. Released nearly one year ago, Aloha was something of a clinker at the box office, and the critics liked it even less than the people who actually bought tickets.

It seems like a talky movie and, in fact, is one, the Cameron Crowe lines sometimes flying by faster than your mind can grab them. Yet some of the most effective scenes, the ones that will one day bring me back to the movie, are those in which expressions and gestures, not words, carry the story.

As the title suggests, that story is set in Hawaii, home of the hula, a dance in which hand movements express the meaning. The hula becomes the metaphor for the movie, in which various characters use their hands, eyes and facial expressions to carry significant conversations.

We all know, of course, how important body language can be in communication. It's not just the words we say but how we say them. At a restaurant a week ago I noticed a woman on the other side of the room talking with a man. I had no idea what she was saying, but I found her interesting just for the flamboyant manner in which she moved her hands and for the vivid expressions on her face.

I have just started reading American Mirror: The Life and Art of Norman Rockwell by Deborah Solomon. Solomon writes that Rockwell admired Pablo Picasso and at least once actually flirted with abstract art himself. Fortunately he stuck with doing what he did best, painting pictures that told entire stories without benefit of words.

This blog may be dedicated to words, but both Aloha and Norman Rockwell remind me that words do not and cannot convey everything we have to say.

No comments:

Post a Comment