Embracing Difference: Ode to Janicza Bravo

Janicza Bravo fascinates me. From the first time I watched Gregory Go Boom (2013), I have been in awe of her work. I recently read that she doesn’t like it when people say that her work is ‘weird’ (Erbland, 2017), perhaps it’s not quite the right word, but I find her embrace and exploration of difference admirable.


After deciding a feeling of discomfort would be integral to my own film, The Bell Jar (Book Trailer), I naturally gravitated back to Bravo’s work and took inspiration from it. In Gregory Go Boom (2013), every shot is designed to make us feel uncomfortable – the wide-angle camera shots force us to sit with our protagonist and endure such moments. Much of the landscape is bleak and rather depressing. Music enhances the discomfort further, using random, punchy guitar riffs which are almost nausea-inducing. Nothing seems to quite fit, including Gregory. I wanted to embody this in my own work, depicting The Bell Jar‘s protagonist Esther Greenwood as separate and disassociated, in front of an empty, monochromatic background. I aspired to achieve this style of filming by using similar wide-angle shots, uneasy jazz music, and a bare set-design.


Bravo’s exploration of taboo in her absurdist style is commendable and something I could only hope to try and mimic in my own film. In this case, her exploration of disability so strikingly different than that of, say, Me Before You (2016) or The Theory of Everything (2014), both of which have (spoiler-alert) a relatively happy ending. Bravo’s depiction, in contrast, feels frighteningly realistic. It’s unnerving but fascinating. In this way, I aimed to channel the ‘absurdity’ (although we might question how ridiculous the ridiculousness actually is) in my own work. In The Bell Jar, Greenwood’s journey is not linear; she fluctuates between spaces, physically and mentally. I showed this by filming five sequences, representing her mental state in each one. From working writer to institutionalised patient, the trailer synthesises her journey without giving away too much. The final sequence, shots of Greenwood slicing up figs, is perhaps the most absurd of the bunch. Like Bravo’s work, it is uncomfortable to watch, but impossible to look away. For a moment, we are stuck in time with our protagonist.

the bell jar
The Bell Jar (Book Trailer) © Chanelle Manton

Sources Used

Erbland, K. 2017. ‘”Lemon” Director Janicza Bravo On The Art of Rejection and Why Her Movie’s Not Weird – Sundance 2017’ Indiewire [online]. Available at: https://www.indiewire.com/2017/01/lemon-janicza-bravo-sundance-interview-1201774063/ [Last accessed 8 November 2018]

Gregory Go Boom. 2013. [film]. United States: Jash Network – CYRK

Me Before You. 2016. [film]. United Kingdom: Metro-Goldymn-Mayer, New Line Cinema, Sunswept Entertainment

The Theory of Everything. 2014. [film]. United States: Working Title Films, in association with Dentsu Motion Pictures & Fuji Television Network

Featured Image – Gregory Go Boom: Sundance Film

Published by Nel Jade

Research interests include domiciliary care, visual methods, affect and emotional geographies.

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