For this week’s video assignments, we were supposed to find a movie that pretty much stands out as an exemplary film in terms of what film making should be. I have feeling most people what see my choice coming, but Joe Versus the Volcano has to be one of the very best movies of all time, especially when looking at film making and the decisions that go into it as art. In this movie Joe is an everyman character who just really hates his life, especially his job. He always feels sick and depressed, and this movie is about how his life and his outlook on the world changes. And I won’t go into too much detail about how his life changes or why, because it really is a movie worth watching.
But let’s look at some clips that detail some of the absolutely top-notch film making. And it starts off spectacularly from the very beginning with the opening credits.
I love the fairy tale beginning to with the “Once Upon a Time” bit, because it seems ridiculous as the movie starts. Shortly after Joe is seen stepping out of his car we get a birds-eye-view of the factory where he works, and this shot looks like it could be a castle straight from a fairy tale if that castle had just gone to complete shit. In the first five minutes of this film we just fully appreciate how much Joe hates his job. How miserable it is. The attention to detail and the symbolism is fantastic in terms of props. The signs on the side that read “Home of the Rectal Probe”, “50 Years in Petroleum Jelly”, what an awesome attention to detail! That jus sounds miserable. Then there’s a great close up of Joe stumbling and ribbing the rubbery sole of his shoe off, and I like to think that is drawing direct connections to the breaking of his actual soul. Sometime later there’s a great birds-eye-view shot of the walkway to the main door and it’s in the shape of the company logo. Then a great graphic match to the main door of the building where the same logo is prominently displayed. Another example of just excellent cinematics. Sometime later there is a close up of a small white flower; quite literally the only beautiful thing around. And we watch as a couple people’s feet nearly miss the flower, hoping it survives the morning commute, but eventually it’s stepped on. What great symbolism for a lack of hope and just complete desolation. The last thing I want to mention from this scene is the perfect musical selection. Music is such a key part of any film, and Eric Burdon’s version of Sixteen Tons is just perfect. Sixteen Tons tells the story of the life of a coal miner with the main line of the refrain reading, “Saint Peter don’t ya call me because I can’t go, I owe my soul to the company store”.
Another great scene, and probably my favorite in the whole movie is when Joe quits his job.
It starts with Joe standing that same flower up from the beginning, with the sun shining and hopeful music in the background. Just a complete shift since the beginning. This scene as well is just perfectly shot. Especially in terms of the plot and the dialogue of this scene. The other cinematic elements like cinematography and lighting are all on point to. The lighting in the office is dark and flickering and depressing. The things Joe says and does are just hilarious as well. In his office there’s a drainage valve that says “Don’t Touch” on it. So Joe turns it and his boss is freaking out and Joe says, “Nothing happened, you know how long I’ve been waiting to do that?” As Joe is about to leave we have a close up of Joe and he mumbles, “I should say something”. So he does and he enumerates everything that is wrong. I love the part where he’s complaining about the fluorescent lights and he says, “I can feel them sucking the juice out of my eyeballs, suck, suck, suck, suck, suck, suck.” The scene is hilarious and just perfectly shot and scripted.
Lastly, in the end what I’ve previewed all happens within what has got to be the first half hour of the movie. I don’t want to ruin the movie for those who might watch it, but in that movie are many more great scenes, fantastic attention to detail, and amazing symbolism. It’s a strange and quirky story, and I’m sure not at the top of most people’s lists, but it truly is a phenomenal piece of filmmaking.