One can basically make out what the film,’No Direction Home’ is about within the first 30 seconds as a video of Bob Dylan performing ‘Like a Rolling Stone’ is played. The latter parts od the video prove that it is not just a concert you are watching but a documentary about his life. The song itself is shot in an observational mode. It is shaky aand the quality is not what you would call great, but that is exactly what lures you in and also tells you that there is more to come beside the song.
The video then cuts to a very hazy foggy screen with tree impressions on it. It is an abrupt cut between the two shots and it takes a couple of seconds before you realize what you are actually seeing. All the colour and fun of the previous concert is absolutely zapped out of the screen and this absolute contrast and long shot is very interesting visually just because of the difference. After this very quiet and dull shot, we hear Bob Dylan talk about time and freezing it, which has been a very interesting topic for me always and this was when I was sold to watching this documentary.
The film is basically a story of how Bob Dylan started out. We are taken back into his past, which he retells. The mode of documentary also changes here from observational to participatory as he recounts his life. The rules of shooting seem to have been followed to perfection here as we see him sitting on a stool, positioned to the right hand side and shot with the three point rule. The lighting is simple, only a key light is used here and shines on the offside of the face. The contrast is again high on the amount of shadow and light, telling us that the filmmaker enjoys mixing different things for the eye to see. I personally like this kind of film shooting as well.
In between the shots of Dylan recounting his past are black and white photos or videos, some abstract, which help in his telling. My favourite shot of these was of the record spinning.
There are two audio lines in the film, one recording his voice and the other playing old music to set the mood and imply how all that music played a huge part in his life. A third is added in between for fx sounds like wind, I think. A classmate actually bought my attention to that.
The use of black and white grades, old tunes and even Bob Dylan’s voice take you back, you don’t need to hear his words to guess what he is talking about. I can’t help but remember here an advice of a cinematographer that said let the audio and the image go hand in hand and compliment each other to tell your story. Don’t let one take over the other to render it useless. I think that has been achieved amazingly here.
So, in the end, though I haven’t seen this film, the first two minutes show me that it is about Bob Dylan’s journey to the world of music and being a rebel, growing up in a small mining town. Growing up, there is no direction home!