What is paradise? Though often in pursuit of it, little do people know that paradise can be found right before their eyes. The movie Paterson (2016) illustrates this paradise present in everyday life in a powerful, fictional documentary of the life of Paterson as he pursues creativity in a small town. While one should not watch this movie expecting a lot of action, the emotional resonance that lingers after watching this particular film is what makes this a must-watch movie. When one gets lost amongst the daily hubbub of life, there will come a time where one must stop and be mindful of the artistry in their surroundings that is capable of bringing back the paradise lost.
▲ Paterson Theatrical Release Poster
The film follows a week in the life of Paterson in Paterson, New Jersey. Paterson is a seemingly ordinary bus driver who is also a poet at heart. As he adhere s to his regimented and routinized life, he writes poetry into his notebook during his free time. There is very little of what normal people would consider a plot in Paterson and a lot of the action takes place when Paterson reacts to his surroundings with his poetry. The movie has a documentarylike mood but the minute details to poetry in the daily happenings are what create moments of beauty in between the static narrative. There is an underlying tension for any sort of possible action that could occur but, in the end, the movie goes against expectations and remains action-less.
Art in a Movie
Paterson is a gorgeous film shot over 30 days in the fall of 2015 by cinematographer Frederick Elmes. Unsurprisingly, it was mostly filmed in Paterson, New Jersey as well as other locations in New York. Considering the fact that the story line is one without much change in scenery, Elmes does an amazing job at making a routine visually refreshing each time. Every time Paterson goes to work, it is shot at a different angle and this makes it easier for the viewers to have a sense of what inspires Paterson’s poetry as he goes about his daily life. It gives the film a great deal of depth and provides visual poetry to compliment the poetry in the movie.
The movie’s protagonist was played with spectacular attention to detail by Adam Driver. Throughout the movie, the actor recites his lines with a deliberate cadence, slowly rolling over each syllable, adding to the beauty of the poetry present. Because the movie is basically composed of quiet reveries, it is crucial that the protagonist plays this role very well. Driver, despite playing such a static character, expresses Paterson’s passion for poetry perfectly with each spoken line.
Poetry at the Core
The poetry in the film, written by Ron Padgett and partially by Jim Jarmusch, the director, himself, also adds to the artistic element of the film. This combination of poetry and a boring routine, demonstrates beauty in the mundane and has an oddly calming effect on people. “I breathe poetry,” says a character Paterson meets at the end of the film. This is the core message of the movie. If people can live their lives experiencing the poetry that is all around them, life would be more worthwhile.
Interestingly, Paterson is also the title of an epic poem written by William Carlos Williams, and this is revealed to the audience towards the end of the film. The poem opens with the line, “a man is indeed a city, and for the poet there are no ideas but in things.” The entire film captured the essence of Williams’ poems and that is why the film is a work of art in itself. Williams saw poetry as “equipment for living, a necessary guide amid the bewilderments of life,” and the director aimed to portray this in this movie.
Paterson won the Palm Dog Award at the Cannes Film Festival and is steadily maintaining a high approval rating in numerous sites. However, the fact that almost nothing happens in the movie may be unsettling to some. While the film appeals to people who love poetry, it can come across as difficult to those that are not so familiar with the art of poetry. What makes the movie so intriguing is the attention paid to the small details. However, it becomes a problem when the audience struggles to understand these features. Without the lyrical poetry, the movie is simply about a mundane life and has minimal appeal.
On the other hand, the majority of people do catch on to the poetic nuances pretty quickly, allowing the movie to resonate within them. The film opens people’s eyes to the beauty of seemingly banal activities and inspires people to look at the world in a different light. Paterson’s poetry appears on the screen as he writes them and with each word, accompanied by the visuals, the audience gets a peek into Paterson’s head. Poetry is not apart from life and that is what the director was trying to express through this movie. People find solace in the beauty of the daily life through the movie and this may be the reason why Paterson had such a positive reception when it initially came out.
Paterson is, without a doubt, a movie that is unlike others. While it certainly runs the risk of being a boring movie devout of entertainment, it is enjoyable all the same. It is a quiet spellbinder that holds the attention of viewers without having to go through unnecessary plot twists. The parallels drawn between the movie and the epic poem forms a new affection for modern poetry in the audience and makes the film almost meditative. There are other movies that have attempted the lack of action theme, but there were definitely none that have been done as well as Paterson. The present is made surreal in the movie and, though it is difficult for a film to be repetitive while engaging the audience, Paterson accomplishes just that.