Does the 2023 Oscars Canadian submission “Eternal Spring” attempt to follow the steps of last year’s highly successful documentary “Flee”?
In 2022, Flee, a documentary about an Afghan refugee’s childhood experience and his present life in Denmark, got a great achievement. It received Oscar nominations in Best International Feature Film, Best Documentary Feature and Best Animated Feature in the same year, creating a record in Oscar’s history.
This year, Eternal Spring, a documentary about Falun Gong’s 2002 hijacking of broadcast television stations, aims for the Oscar’s Best International Feature Award.
Both documentaries used a combination of animated images and archival footage to target a social issue. So, will Eternal Spring gain the same success as Flee?
Today, we’ll talk about the film aspects that formed Flee as an unduplicable success and analyze what is lacking in Eternal Spring.
Flee has a clear narrative flow. It follows a man’s refugee journey, talks about the long-lasting influence of a traumatized childhood experience, and gets deep into his reconciliation with his past. Through abstract drawings, we understand his psychological state and build a connection with him. Flee shows us the social issue through a story – a story that is unique but at the same time, relatable to many refugees and immigrants.
However, unlike Flee, Eternal Spring takes multiple perspectives in mind. Combining several people’s experience together can indeed highlight the amount of people that have been affected by this event, but this makes it hard to follow each story and combine them to build a consistent timeline. So, without a clear plot and a blurry division between A and B storylines, it is challenging for the viewers to align with all documentary subjects in Eternal Spring and feel for them as audience feel for Amin in Flee.
And there comes the magic of editing.
Eternal Spring’s editing is a combination of scattering pieces from multiple puzzles that are built up into a single picture. It is at times difficult to comprehend the connection between scenes, just like something is missing from the puzzle. While Flee is a relatively small puzzle. Thus, a coherent editing allows audience to put all its pieces in their right place by the end of the film and build similar small puzzles in the future – draw inferences about other cases from one story.
In addition, the editing of Eternal Spring urged me to think of what a reliable source of information is. People’s personal experience and the real footage such as images and videos – undeniably yes. Media excerpts? No. Media is always biased. Solely media cannot be considered as evidence or a proof. And even if it is used, presenting an argument isn’t enough to persuade people. A counterargument needs to be given along with it and be overturned. The excessive number of media inserts in Eternal Spring pulls me away from the story itself, and forces to focus on media’s authenticity.
Nevertheless, that is not only the result of editing and ambiguous storytelling in Eternal Spring, but also the sound accompanying it.
Here’s where sound plays its role.
Sound needs to complement the image to get audience immersed into the story. In Flee, soundtracks complete what we see. They change, either drastically or gradually, based on the documentary subject’s mood and psychological state. The dialogue seems natural but also set up due to its significance in delivering a coherent storyline. Moreover, the dialogue combined with protagonist’s narration unconsciously pulls us into his inner world as we know every thought of his. Thus, we “see” the transition and up and downs in Amin’s life through sound.
Meanwhile in Eternal Spring, sound does its role to create the mood for the viewers but doesn’t necessarily provide an add-on to the movie. Compared to Flee, the emotions in Eternal Spring are flatter, and the created atmosphere is consistently dark. The narration of the documentary subjects is not rehearsed as some mistakes that are common in our daily speech occur. This ensures its realism, but also has affects the flow of the film – making the puzzle pieces hard to joint together.
As a conclusion, the narrative structure, editing and sound of the Canadian’s Oscar 2023 submission Eternal Spring shape it merely as a documentary that highlights social issues, not an artwork with an immersive story that subconsciously triggers reflections on the society. The film is currently showing at NEW YORK Middletown Middletown Cinemas 130 Dolson Ave, Middletown, NY 10940 November 04 – December 22. It is also scheduled for the Palm Springs International Film Festival on: January 08, January 10 and January 11.
Company Name: Fia Sky Entertainment Inc
Contact Person: Erwin Blumenld
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Country: United States