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Text & Image: Stranger Than Fiction

October 15, 2009

The opening sequence of director Marc Forster’s Stranger Than Fiction (2006) features graphics that complement the narrator’s introduction of the film’s central character, Harold Crick, as a socially inept tax auditor with an obsessive reliance upon routine, and visually represent the way he interfaces with his environment. Created by Kansas-based motion graphics company MK12, this is as good an example as I’ve seen of the integration of typography, or in this case type and infographics, into a 3-dimensional space. Their end credit sequence is also impressive, but is more of an exercise in wow-look-at-what-we-can-do kinetic collage than anything else.

The scene reminds be of the interface used in Minority Report (look at Tom Cruise trying to act!) and of the IKEA sequence from Fight Club, both made in 2002. There are so many fanboy tributes to the IKEA scene up on YouTube that I couldn’t find the real one [in fact, I’ve just checked again, and it seems YouTube removed the original clips due to copyright infringement]. Here’s a remake by MrBaker101, using the furniture in his own flat. Fight Club seems to be one of those movies that inspires a certain kind of geek to animate their own kinetic typography sequences. Check out this… ...and this… …and this! There are literally dozens of these on YouTube, and they’re all very poor indeed. So from this point on I’ll keep F**** C*** at arm’s length.

It occurs to me that there are several problems with using Stranger Than Fiction as the basis of a contextual theory essay. Since the scene takes place within a movie, there isn’t much scope for the application of cultural context beyond say, “who is the film’s target audience?”.
I could look at the history of infographics, or other examples of animated infographic sequences, but for me it’s the combination of live action and graphics that makes this work. Remove the sobering influence of real footage and things can start to get a little twee, like in this promo for Royksopp’s Remind Me single (above), by French studio H5.

Finally, another good example of typography integrated into a 3-dimensional space is the opening credit sequence of Panic Room (2002), by Fight Club director David Fincher. There’s a precedent for monumental type of this kind that dates back over a century, so I might look into this a little closer and with further comparisons in a later post.

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