Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Photographer follow-up: length-based art appreciation

In yesterday's review of The Photographer, I noted a sequence that played out over several pages that featured a continuing background, but I was only able to post a portion of the whole scene. However, I did figure out how to post the entire thing elsewhere and link to it, so you can see the full extent of Emmanuel Guibert's work (click to enlarge and see non-distorted):



This is actually nearly four pages of comics, with two panels per tier, but I separated them and laid them out horizontally to demonstrate the way Guibert makes the whole thing work as one long walk through a detailed landscape. It's pretty gorgeous, like one of those scenes in a Woody Allen movie in which two characters have a conversation while walking down a Manhattan sidewalk and the camera just follows them, never looking away. But what struck me was how well the changing landscape matches the mood of the scene; at the beginning, when the conversation between Didier Lefevre, the photographer of the title, and Juliette, the leader of the humanitarian mission to Afghanistan, is limited to a fairly benign subject, they are crossing smooth ground:


As they move into trickier cultural and religious matters, the terrain gets a bit more uneven:


But when Didier springs his news that he's going to leave the party and travel back to Pakistan on his own, the path gets especially rocky, befitting the change in mood to one of conflict and argumentation:


Note also how Guibert moves the characters up to the foreground at the most important moment, and how Juliette is cut off by the edge of the panel, caught completely by surprise:


We don't even get to see her reaction; she's so taken aback that she stops in her tracks. See how in the next panel, Didier has turned back to talk to her as she remains in place. Then they continue walking, but it seems less of an amiable chat than before, judging by the less-casual body language and changing positions of the characters. The pacing also works to convey the tension, with a big rock blocking our view for a moment, making it seem as though Juliette has paused to consider before making her decision:


She accepts that she can't control Didier, and he's going to have to manage on his own, as rash as his decision might be. At that point, the ground smooths out again, and it also works as a sort of fade-out, as they walk off into the distance and end the scene:



It's a great example of Guibert's command of the comics form; all this technique is subtle, not even noticeable unless you choose to look more closely and examine the workings of the art. This is just one scene in the book; the rest of it is full of stuff like this that demonstrates Guibert's storytelling mastery. He's certainly one of the current greats on the global scene. I can't wait to see what he'll do next.