Minimal Film: The Cinematic World Reimagined Through Graphic Design by Matteo Civaschi invites the reader to see cinema from a different perspective. But it is not only a book for film lovers; it will also appeal to lovers of graphic design, too.
The book uses Shortology, created by the author, who is also the Executive Creative Director of H-57, a Milan-based creative design and advertising studio. Shortology was designed as a philosophy to represent, in the shortest and funniest possible way – through the use of a few graphical icons – biographies, historical events, movies, inventions, and social phenomena. Here the emphasis is on film, ranging from the immortal Star Wars saga to “auteur” cinema. Even TV series are visually represented with examples such as Game of Thrones and Breaking Bad. Alongside its references to film, the book’s style and mood pay tribute to the magical world of design from the ’60s and ’70s, mentioning artists, designers and architects such as Joe Colombo, Max Huber, Gio Ponti and Armando Testa.
Shortology was designed to be an instant language which narrates stories through pictograms. Taking their cue from the first rudimentary from of language some 32,000 years ago: cave art. Since then, rock drawings and engravings have evolved in many way, and one of these is infographics. Matteo explains: “The use of infographics is extremely effective because it is based in simplicity essentially, on the speed and ease of understanding of each defining element. In 2011, I started using infographics to portray the lives of famous people and historical events. Starting from stick figure toilet figures and drawing heavily on that symbolic, simple, yet intuitive universe found in driver’s educational manuals or on road signs.”
Matteo has produced stories on Michael Jackson, Jesus, Napoleon, Marie Antoinette and Darth Vader to name a few: “I don’t presume that I’ve invented something new, I regard my work as an addition of new tales to the famous cave ones: a cynical and ruthless visual synthesis, just like 32,000 years ago but with an added touch of irony”.
“Shortology has allowed me to look at films with different eyes reinterpreting and pruning them to isolate the bare essence. The best example is The Lord of the Rings: hours and hours of adventures, a myriad of characters, battles, spells, ruthless enemies, flying dragons, and epic journeys synthesised by a ring which, following a long arrow, ends up inside a volcano. Done”.
“Of course, in analysing a film to synthesise and deciding to leave out incredible events or the detailed reconstructions that make up the plot, I feel an increasingly deep responsibility for throwing it all away. But the art of synthesis is just that: a loaded gun ready to fire at anything that isn’t vital to the story. What remains then, trivial, is exactly what we would use if we were to briefly describe a movie to someone.”
“Then came the realisation: to draw the bag containing methamphetamine crystals for the Breaking Bad series, I absolutely had to make use of colour. And not only that, I had to invest a lot of time in understanding the form they had to take…regular? Irregular? Geometric? At one point, I used essential shapes only: triangles, and squares, equidistant from each other, in essence creating a mathematical pattern. It was a graphic art that struck me immediately because it was something I’d never done before. Trying to enrich it with a background colour, it hit me: I was facing something new and different or better, I had pushed Shortology to an even more extreme visual synthesis.
“I took that file, saved it in a folder called ‘The Minimal Film Project’ and in that moment, the idea of the book was born. This is a book about cinema told through the visual magic of graphic design, or a graphic design book narrated through the evocative magic of cinema, you decide!”.
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