The audience member wanted to know if it was possible to express visual narrative in a video without using either voiceover narration, or even voice dialogue. I asserted that it was possible, thinking immediately of the movie Koyaanisquatsi. I first saw the movie at an art house on South Street in Philadelphia in 1982 with Michael Mally, a colleague working with me at The Philadelphia Inquirer. We were both intrigued by the blending of shooting and editing techniques in this film directed by Godfrey Reggio, with cinematography by Ron Fricke and a music score by Philip Glass. The use of slow motion and time lapse image sequences paced perfectly with the music expressed a narrative story that struck us as magical.
The motivations of the movie’s creators are well-expressed in this video clip and they provide much food for thought to feed our creative imaginations.
Over the years, on a much simpler level, I have realized that many television commercials tell a story in 30 seconds or less, also using only music and visual sequences to express a central narrative idea. One such example is a VW commercial from several years ago that featured the music of Nick Drake while extolling the possibilities of traveling in a Golf convertible being introduced to various markets as a Cabrio.
The Mexican beer company Grupo Modelo has excelled with well-filmed commercials featuring touches of humor such as this example
Or this example that was released in 2000 as a Christmas ad on U.S. broadcast networks.
Finally, this Mini-Cooper commercial as a great example. I think such techniques can be utilized to tell stories, particularly using humor, and they can be universally understood by the audience.
The point of mentioning these ads is that visual storytelling can offer a complete narrative with music and images alone, confirming the linkages to aural storytelling that Marshall McLuhan once noted as the language of tribes at the dawn of human history. Seems like we are hardwired to appreciate stories told this way and create in this language too. Consider the possibilities to expand visual storytelling done for journalistic purposes.