A Place Like This: Documentary Analysis

A Place Like This is an artful and beautifully simplistic telling of one old man’s past traumas while utilizing vibrant, peaceful visuals of his present garden. The composition itself lends to a somber nature, as if the storm has passed and the calm as settled in. Various elements of the film are used to create such a juxtaposition while still allowing them to work in in accordance without being disjointed or clunky. The presence of a calming elderly man’s voice with an Australian accent alone is enough to take such a gruesome story and make it sound harmonious to a viewer’s ears. The music as well has an ominous touch that is both applicable to the wondrous garden theme and the grisly battle subjects. All these elements used to make the film run smoothly are auditory. The rest of the visual images work in complete opposition. Between the old man’s thoughts about his traumatic experiences are lyric-less images of various miraculous beauties grown in his garden. Most shots of the man are either close ups of his face or of his hands.

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Up close image of the old man’s wrinkled hands, symbolic of his past experience and trauma

Both are wrinkled and old and indicative of past trauma and experiences. Hands especially are archetypically represented as symbolic of toil and incidental past hardship.  All of this is set to a beautiful backdrop of heavy greenery spotted with bright flowers and leaves. The man eventually shifts to talking about his present life and his focus on his garden, as if towards the end of his time on earth, after experiencing so much death, he finally choses to spend all his time focused on giving life. In a later shot of pink flowers, there is even a bee busily getting nectar from a flower. Not only is life existing, but the process of maintaining and creating life is represented.

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Photo of brightly colored flowers and a bee actively attaining nectar from them. This shows that life is now a continuous and immersive part of the old man’s life. Living things do not simply exist around them, but they thrive and reproduce.

The overall aura of the film is evidence that there is both beauty and ugliness in the world, and that is reality. This transition was admittedly a bit unclear, and I had to rewind to understand that he had changed subject. However, in rewinding, I noticed a shot of a clear blue sky was used to transition topics. The sky had a dotting of white clouds for aesthetic (as plain blue through a screen would not read as well), but was otherwise void of any disturbance. When a viewer sees a clear sky they see infinite possibilities.

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Shot of the sky used to transition the story from the gruesome past to the peaceful present. Where there once was the man’s war past in the air force is now nothing but blue skies and infinite hope.

Where there once was trauma and despair there is now uplifting hope. What was once there, the man and his crew falling from the sky to imminent death, is now a floating sense of potential rather than literal weighted gravity. The final shot is of the man walking away with a dog with the tip of a red flower out of focus yet still visible in the top right corner of the screen. This is representative of the man walking away from his past, armed with life by his side and all around him.

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Final shot of the old man walking away, representative of him leaving his past behind him, armed with both immersion in and companionship by exuberant life

While the viewer is hearing gore, it does not feel like it because visually they are experiencing beauty. While both are valid and real to the human experience, he visual sense is much more overpowering than the auditory sense, and with the mask of the calming music, it almost feels as though you are not hearing a war story, but a simple story of fond nostalgia from an older man’s younger days. It is notable that the man does not have a name in this brief film. A name is mentioned in the caption, but never done so in the piece itself. While his story and experiences are personal and individual, he is describing human experiences that could potentially be twisted to be relatable to anybody.

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