By Amber Broyles
All the violence in the beginning is personal. There are tight close-ups and claustrophobic set pieces. You’re right there in Dwight’s face as he struggles to take that final step. We see everything he’s thinking. We tense up as he tenses up, his parent’s killer only inches away from him. The shots never pull away to reveal the violence as a whole. We get glimpses, pieces of the chaos. It only takes a few moments to take a life. Then the rest of the movie pulls out, pulls away to fully reveal the consequences of Dwight’s actions.
n top of all that, the first two acts come off more as filler than a slow, steady lead-up to the climax. The band runs in and out of the green room multiple times with no plan or even vague idea of how they’re going to get out. They don’t use their surrounds to their advantage and thus, one by one, they’re senselessly picked off in an extremely violent fashion. It’s impossible to build tension when the plot feels like it’s constantly stopping and starting. This tactic is employed to pad the story, and no one intentionally wants the audience to feel this off kilter. It’s exhausting.
The only element these two films have in common is the way in which violence is presented. We have the same ideas. In the beginning the violence is very personal. They use makeshift weapons that cause close proximity between the killer and murder victim. The camera is right up in it. There’s no shying away from the reality of it. You stab someone in the neck there will be blood. You slice a person open and you will see their insides. In these moments the violence is repulsing, as it should be. By the end, the characters are seasoned killers. They use guns. So, they’re farther away and not so involved in their own violence. The shots are wide and detached. The violence is now observed from a distance. It’s not personal anymore. It’s survival.
I greatly attribute Saulnier’s impeccable sense of visual storytelling to his writing. It’s evident when comparing and contrasting these two films. Green Room is a pseudo-complex plot padded with poor character development. Blue Ruin is an unabashedly simple plot with complex characters. He is a master of character when he has more time to focus on only a few. He is a craftsman when it comes to simple plots because he has more time to plan his visual execution of ideas. Green Room is an experiment. It’s not seamless but it’s certainly a learning experience. Hopefully, he can look at it objectively, see the flaws, and apply this new found knowledge to his next film.