In moonlight, black boys look blue
“At some point, you gotta decide for yourself who you’re going to be. Can’t let nobody make that decision for you”, says Juan, deep in his heart knowing that Little will be remembering his words for entire life. Barry Jenkins, the director of the movie has a great story to share. He did not expect that while adapting the play that was so similar to his life, it will become the inspiration to sit and write the entire first draft in 10 days. It came through his heart, he lived the life of a main character. First, Jenkins denied his past, he was afraid to look back at the most heartbreaking memories but as the movie progresses, we can see how the director really stepped in and put himself there on the place of Chiron.
Three stages of the plot (i. Little ii. Chiron iii. Black) are determined and appear to the audience first raw and unfinished but then deep and touching.
The movement of the camera when Little runs through the grass almost gives you a headache, it is disturbing, the camera moves as fast as his entire life investigating global themes. Moonlight can be declared as an epic telling a simple story of a simple person. But what I want to focus on are the visuals and the music that make ‘Moonlight’ a masterpiece in its pure definition.
Element #1. THE VISUALS. The entire movie looks saturated, full of colors and textures, yet there is this softness and purity that makes the images flow out of control and get to the point where you admire every frame.
As you enter the ocean with Little, you emerge fully into it with a main character. You are scared. ‘What if the next wave will close my view entirely and I will sink in to the unknown depth?’ But you learn how to trust the visuals.
Yet there is an incredible moment in the movie. Kevin calls Chiron at night, and after a conversation we see Kevin getting out of his work place and smoking a cigarette. He looks directly at the camera. Why should he? Is there an important message? Is it the reality or just his dream? He looks inside the camera deep into Chiron’s eyes. Why his?
Well, the director’s use of angles in the previous scenes when other people looked directly at Chiron (like his mother), it can easily be inferred that we see the characters through Jaron’s vision. Coming back to the scene and seeing Kevin who stares directly in the camera, and the next shot of him walking away and the next shot Chiron waking up we understand the chain and the usage of “breaking the fourth wall” shot. This theme repeats continually during the movie and in the end it perfectly concludes the theme of visualization when Chiron stares back at us. Now the circle came to an end and he is communicating with us.
Only after a while it made me think of “400 blows” and how these movies are so similar. Even the end of these two masterpieces show how two little boys finding the escape in the huge ocean come to ask their existence.
Element #2. THE MUSIC. Nicholas Britell, the composer of Moonlight shared the process of creating the continuous theme for all three parts that seem to be the same during the movie, however to create the difference between the stages it is not enough only to change the actors, it is essential to hear those little changes of the soul as the character is growing and changing. For i.Little’s theme we hear piano and violin that creates soft combination and feels like a poetry. For ii. Chiron’s theme it is getting interesting. “Barry told me right from the beginning about his love of “chopped and screwed” music, which is this style of southern hip-hop where basically you take tracks of music and you slow them down. What happens when you slow music down like that is the pitch goes down. So the music in a weird way is stretched and bent”, says N. Britell as he created the next theme for Chiron. He admits that those kind of experiments with music can end dramatically because they are too flexible and unpredictable, sometimes they become more weird than appropriate, but for this particular thing “…it felt like we were following an approach that made sense for the film itself”, claims Britell. So what you hear for Chiron’s theme is just the same theme but stretched and bent. (You can listen it here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OX0EtSpH2HE&t=1059s ).
To conclude my analysis, those elements are just the lifeless components if the entire crew did not put their entire beings in creating this movie.
‘Moonlight’ shows how the simple story can become the magnificent moment of understanding that true love does not have gender, color and age.