My name is Daniel Korth, I am fifteen years old and it is my dream to be a film director. I am passionate about the medium because it is the most authentic it is possible to get, and the closest people have ever got to recreating reality for entertainment’s sake. As much as I aspire to bring my own fresh ideas, and tell my own stories, I cannot help wishing that I had made many movies already released. I would love to have these jewels of inspiration to my name; for personal satisfaction and, yes, recognition as a skilled filmmaker. I would do anything to, behind the scenes of these five films especially, have had the opportunity to sit in the director’s chair, to have called “And ACTION!!”
‘Brokeback Mountain’ (2005), directed by Ang Lee
Ang Lee, the director of ‘Brokeback Mountain’, seems to have a natural instinct for what feels right. The simplest close up of Michelle Williams, or two shot of Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal in this film looks truly beautiful, the colours and lighting always fine-tuned to perfection and suiting the wistful mood. The dry, arid setting of where the two cowboys live is contrasted by the green, lush landscape of Brokeback mountain, where they can be themselves. It is no attempt at subtlety that the dryness represents their lack of relief, and the rich, damp setting where they get just that. It is simple but so, so effective. The feel of the mountainside stays with you as the movie takes you to and from other settings, and even lingers like a melancholy memory when the film has finished. I wish I had directed ‘Brokeback Mountain’ for the unrivalled talent of feeling how a place could affect the story and the mood. Furthermore, I would have had the opportunity to work with the phenomenal Heath Ledger, who here gives such a quiet yet tortured performance that he should have more than a posthumous Oscar to his name.
‘Brokeback Mountain’ is a beautiful film, a special film, my favourite film. Everything, from the emotional music to the cinematography, works to create an absolute gem.
‘Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri’ (2017), directed by Martin McDonagh
‘Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri’ is exactly the kind of film I want to make, as the characters are all sympathetic and so human that you even feel sorry for a racist cop; it doesn’t tie every end off neatly; the ending is wistful, and the whole film therefore seems to be tainted by ‘what’s the point?’ That lingering question does not make the film seem anti climactic or redundant. It is more a revelation in a cinematic world that not all of the protagonists’ actions were worth it. What is remarkable about ‘Three Billboards’ is that it is smart, witty and structured, yet simultaneously authentic and entirely believable. The dramatic beats come thick and fast about two thirds of the way through – a character shoots himself, a cop drops a young man out of a window, one of the main characters sets the police station on fire – but it never feels conceived or facetious.
The character work is so strong that each has a believable reason for said action. Martin McDonagh is a true actor’s director, with each actor giving a riveting individual performance, and at the same time all interacting so convincingly. This film just goes to show that a big budget isn’t necessary for class. This is the most believably performed, and the best directed film I’ve seen of the 2010’s.
‘The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring’ (2001), directed by Peter Jackson
I am one of the few people born in the 2000’s to have read ‘The Lord of the Rings’ books before I saw the films. I read them when I was seven, and they have been my favourite novels ever since. When I finally saw the movies many years later it did not, as many suggested it would, destroy the magic for me. If anything, it expanded my love for Middle Earth and all things Tolkien. Most of all the first in the trilogy, ‘The Fellowship of the Ring’, impressed me as it manages to stay the most faithful to the book. It just blew my mind how a group of people, but mainly one man, Peter Jackson, could breathe life into such an epic story and make it so easily accessible, right there, literally happening on screen in such a photo-realistic way. It was watching the extended edition appendices for these films that inspired me to become a director. I share with Peter Jackson a deep love for the source material. If he took it and so tenderly brought it to life then that could be my job for other things. (Namely Tolkien’s ‘The Silmarillion’, which I still haven’t given up on one day making).
What elevates ‘The Fellowship of the Ring’ above all other book adaptions and most other films for me is its focus on the main relationships with vast landscape, battles and fantasy as the backdrop. It would have been easy for Jackson and co to take the hobbits’ relationships in the book as waffle that could have been cut out of the films, leaving space for all the epic and the grand only. To their credit, they realised that narrowing in on the friendships would create much more emotion, given the scope and scale. Since I first watched ‘The Fellowship of the Ring’, my understanding of film has deepened. Making my own shorts, I have developed some tropes which better suit my style than many used here, so technically there are a couple of films closer to what I want to make. Yet Peter Jackson’s epics will always continue to inspire me, and I’ll imagine myself as Peter Jackson, on a film set breathing life into ‘The Lord of the Rings’.
‘The Prestige’ (2006), directed by Christopher Nolan
I have argued for authenticity, and honest human representation on this list. Sometimes, though, I have to sit back and admire a good thriller as much as anyone. ‘The Prestige’ is the best Christopher Nolan film in my opinion, narrowly edging ‘The Dark Knight’ (2008). The original, unexpected twist at the end is so mind-blowing that I was left gaping like the guy in the Cineworld advert! Aside from this surprising revelation, the film’s clever structure has really stuck with me. A prologue sets it up to be about one character eventually drowning the other which, given the way things go in the plot, would be very plausible indeed. Eventually we get to that scene again, and it is revealed that the whole thing was a set up. The reason this wasn’t shown in the prologue is simply because we cut before it can be seen. This is a complete audience trick and a gimmick, but for the reaction I felt it is well worth it. ‘The Prestige’, via some typically Nolan on-the-nose dialogue, also embeds the complex theme of sacrifice. All very showy, all very impressive. I wish I’d made the film so people would say, ‘that Daniel Korth guy. He’s clever!’
‘Lincoln’ (2012), directed by Stephen Spielberg
Most people would disagree with me when I say that ‘Lincoln’ is Stephen Spielberg’s best film. It is generally considered well made but not exciting; nothing distinctly special within Spielberg’s impressive canon. It is quickly becoming lost in the wake of time, which is a great shame. This is a movie from a filmmaker at the top of his craft. The direction is so assured. One gets a sense of the hustle and bustle, the effortless storytelling from his earlier films such as ‘Close Encounters of the Third Kind’ (1977), but this is a more reflective, ponderous film. In another director or actor’s hands this could be ridiculously over-the-top, perhaps with the whole movie building up to a shouting match, with exaggerated performances. Main actor Daniel Day-Lewis gives heart-wrenching speeches with such quiet determination he seems to be literally looking at a far off dream. I wish I had made ‘Lincoln’, because it is a sure sign from Spielberg that he has assumed mastery of filmmaking. He can apply his deft touches to anything he likes, and in this case he applied his skill to the tender, subdued tale of the abolishment of slavery. Which more people should be grateful for.