Luke Fowler directed four short films for Channel 4’s 3 Minute Wonder slot; four portraits of four people who live in the same Victorian tenement in Glasgow. Even though the films are about the people and titled according to their names, the residents themselves barely appear. What is shown instead are the smallest details of their everyday surroundings (furnishings, books, scattered papers, views from their windows), flickering in and out of sight and repeating themselves as the camera alternately focuses, zooms, or slides back out of focus. Certain details, patterns, and colors are found over and over again in each person’s film: Anna is flushed with rich reds appearing in various places around her apartment and punctuated by the recurring image of a rain-washed window; David almost obsessively follows the lines of buildings seen outside his window and the repeated curves the cars outside draw; Helen focuses on the various minute textures and colors of the flat; and Lester is predominated and, at times, imprisoned by shelves full to bursting with books. The four films draw attention to how much the ordinary colors, shapes, patterns, and textures we are exposed to every day influence us and define our views and lives–the way these tiny details flow into our personalities.
It is very hard to say whether the camera captures the tiny details of the subjects’ living spaces as an impartial observer or from the subject’s point to view. On the one hand, the subjects themselves occasionally appear briefly and effects such as superimposition are used, suggesting the external nature of the camera eye. On the other hand, the footage often mimics the movement of an actual eye. The image flickers momentary like a blink, focusing, unfocusing and refocusing, as though the viewer is so used to his or her surroundings that they cease to produce an acute interest. The camera picks out certain patterns and colors that a person traces again and again, with a repeated, unsteady gaze. Is Fowler trying to point out the pattens that run through his subjects’ lives or is he trying to bring us as near as possible to their point of view? Are the personalities of the subjects revealed by their surroundings or do their surroundings influence their personalities? Whatever the answers, the films are beautifully shot–they capture the peace and privacy of the home and the immobile loveliness of the everyday using fairly simple but very effective exposure effects and lighting.