How things start and end is very important. Movies, books, games, plays. Relationships. Lives. The start establishes how you feel during the experience, and the end decides how you remember it, like a filter.
The start of Solaris (Steven Soderbergh) is my favorite among movie beginnings. After the 20th Century Fox fanfare and a studio logo, there is no fancy intro, no mood establishing music, no clever montage. Only the sound of a gentle rain. A window fades in; the target of the rain drops. There is not much color. The depth of focus is very narrow, leaving no details visible but the rain on the glass surface. What goes on outside or inside the window is hidden.
The second shot is a man sitting down. The apartment is low on details and colors. The sound of rain continues with the same intensity, as the man stares at the floor. The expression on the man’s face is as if he has carried a sadness for such a long time that the sadness has become an ever-present part of him. A woman’s voice is heard. “Chris, what is it?”
A third shot show him from behind, sitting on a bed, revealing that there is no woman in the room. The words of the woman continues. “I love you so much.”
The fourth shot. We now recognize that his sitting perfectly still, still looking down. His hands are clinched. The bed is untidy, and he hasn’t dressed yet. “Don’t you love me anymore?”.
The low key beginning, the rain against the window and the washed out colors are all metaphors for his emotional state. This state is also more directly communicated through his body language, facial expression, lack of movement, inability to get out of bed and the woman’s words.
These 4 simple shots tell us so much with so little. In 30 seconds the director has established the mood, some of the main character’s personality and some of his story. Within half a minute of the movie, I’m right there with him. It is done in such an effective, economical and unsentimental way. Brilliant.