Rhythm. It's one of the most powerful elements of anything that moves - life, music, dance, and the motion picture.
In high school I used to volunteer my time making videos for Hospice so that people who were terminally ill could record their story and a last message they wanted to leave for their loved ones. Besides being incredibly rewarding work by itself, I was introduced to a group called "Heartstrings" who would play music for Hospice patients. Sometimes even as they passed from this life into the next.
My understanding of their intent was to play music that would sooth a patient and bring their heart rate down. Apparently, our heartbeat likes to fall in sync with the surrounding rhythms. So an anxious patient might listen to calm music so their heart rate could relax and slow. I used to listen to upbeat music when I would run because I wanted to raise my heartbeat and the music helped me push myself harder to do it. And I'm always fascinated to see babies instinctively move to the rhythm of a song, without anyone showing them how.
How do music and rhythms move us? Tony Robbins believes that motion creates emotion. It's easy to see at least a correlation between the two, but my personal belief is that motion closely simulates the sensation of an emotion. Often our emotions are described as a chemical reaction that "vibrates" in our bodies. Sound also vibrates as it travels. Perhaps certain sound vibrations feel similar to the emotional vibrations in our body and "resonate" when they bring those feelings to mind.
It's just a theory, but something that fascinates me nonetheless. As part of my director's breakdown on our current feature film, I am experimenting with using a metronome to plan the rhythm of each scene. I tap out the speed of movement that feels appropriate to me for the moment and record the bpm shifts in my breakdown.
My favorite example of how powerful rhythm can be in story telling is Joe Wright's Anna Karenina. Wow. Such a masterpiece of cinema. And the pacing is clearly purposeful and intentional. It feels like watching a musical number, but without any singing. I think he described it as a ballet. Anyway, rhythm does not just refer to the soundtrack. Rhythm can be achieved in how you move the camera, move the actors, and cut the film. Such a powerful element to pay attention to.
To engage in a moving narrative, is to accept an invitation to take an emotional journey with its author. Such is the beauty and intimacy of connection through art.... Dance with me?