Thoughts on Kevin Macdonald’s “Life In A Day”

[pullquote]What you’ll actually find in this movie is an interesting, touching snapshot of modern humanity… You will laugh and cry and at other times feel completely helpless to what you’re witnessing on the screen… Above all else it made me ask myself, what was I doing on the 24th July 2010?[/pullquote]Over the weekend I caught a preview of the new Kevin Macdonald directed, Tony & Ridley Scott produced documentary “Life In A Day”. The movie is a part concept, part documentary feature that provides a snapshot of what ‘ordinary’ people were doing around the World on 24th July 2010. Along the way each contributor was asked to answer a few simple questions. The footage was then shared back to the film makers via YouTube; as we’re informed briefly at the start of the movie they received 4,500 hours of footage back from 192 countries. If, like me, when you first hear about the involvement of ‘YouTube’,  you’ll probably end up conjuring images of a movie full of surprised kittens or anonymous posing, but what you’ll actually find in this movie is an interesting, touching snapshot of modern humanity. In reality, the advent of YouTube, phone cameras and such means that for the first time a document such as this can be captured with honesty, no guard and with footage that would take any other film maker years to collate in person.

[jwplayer config=”BIGnoads” file=”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bT_UmBHMYzg”]

 

The picture starts in the early hours and works through the day as it evolves. Putting the entire World into a single time zone, we see those who’re ending their previous day drunk on the streets with friends, to those who find beauty in the opening moments of a day. It serves to get us used to the different standards of camera used as well as jumping from the streets of Nepal to the beds of suburban America as the World awakens. Immediately you see the benefit of the user generated content – a woman in her bed looking at her child, then addressing the camera “isn’t he beautiful?” with genuine love and affection that instantly connected with me from the screen.

The feature then breaks into numerous vignettes that focus on the people, locations and stories that resonate the most and display the greatest diversity to each other. I won’t mention any specifics with what was selected as I consider it all to be spoiler material, but it displayed a large mixture of humour, laughter, faith, culture, landscape, heartbreak, love, personality, horror, circumstance and heartbreak.

Linking the highlighted stories are wonderfully crafted edit segments that move you into another time of the day or focus on the response to a simple question about love or fears. As well as helping to bring in footage from the majority – if not all – contributors, these segments are simply stunning. The underlying (and beautiful) score adds rhythm and emotion to every aspect of the lives that we live through everyday, taking away the mundanity we perceive and adding brilliance and wonder to what we – as humans – can do. This very fact is highlighted in a final scene when a contributor addresses the camera for the first time late at night, crying, upset that nothing interesting happens in her life whilst surrounding her is a stunning natural lightening storm. It’s a juxtaposition that beautifully sums up the very notion of this movie, that maybe we should open our eyes and take stock of everything around us.

I’ll be honest, in the moment this is quite a strange film to be viewing in a cinema. Part of that comes from the nature of the content and part from the wonder of not quite knowing what to expect from Life In A Day. That is no complaint however, for each individual who sees it is going to see a slightly different movie based on their own values. I guarantee that even within one screening room you’ll find that there will be variance between what will make you angry, happy or sad, and between what you recognise as what life is and what you find a strange, grander or lesser lifestyle. One thing is for certain, you will laugh and cry and at other times feel completely helpless to what you’re witnessing on the screen. It’s all quite mesmerising and is incredibly well condensed and crafted by Macdonald.

Above all else it made me ask myself, what was I doing on the 24th July 2010 and how does it compare when put into context of these ninety wondrous minutes of cinema? It’s an incredible piece that doesn’t care if you like or hate it. Unlike most things that you’ll watch, it’s not preaching any ideology to you and it’s not trying to manipulate your emotions and response towards a particular stance, instead opting to give you the chance to find your own personal interpretation of what’s presented. For that reason alone it’s something you should seek out, embrace and take something personal with you as you leave. If you can do that, then this video experiment has been a wholly worthwhile investment.