Despite the fact that the look of his films often takes a back seat to bizarre stories and quirky characters, Spike Jonze has crafted a uniquely whimsical visual style over the course of his four feature films. Making the most out of simple elements such as lens flares, floating camera movement, centered framing, and wide-angle close-ups, Jonze creates an atmosphere that appears to be lifted straight from the pages of a fairytale storybook. His camera is fascinated with the mundane; intently exploring fabrics and materials, finding beauty and significance in the obscure and unnoticed. Dust particles floating in a beam of sunlight become hypnotic. The delicate plaster of marionettes feels as lifelike as human flesh. The matted fur wrapped around a child strikes us with an overwhelming sense of marvel and nostalgia.
In his first two films, Being John Malkovich (1999) and Adaptation (2002), Jonze used a much more subdued sense of whimsy to express the playfully dark atmospheres. His two most recent works, Where the Wild Things Are (2009) and Her (2013), are saturated with the whimsy aesthetic, mirroring the wonderment and childlike fascinations associated with the films. Jonze utilizes the aesthetic in order to stitch together worlds suitable for his equally whimsical characters.
MUSIC: "Igloo" and "The Moon Song" by Karen O
Being John Malkovich (1999)
Where the Wild Things Are (2009)
Originally featured at: blogs.indiewire.com/pressplay/watch-spike-jonzes-aesthetics-of-whimsy-a-video-essay-20150306