‘Frances Ha’ and the Framing of Friendship

A video explores how among a sea of dialogue, the film’s imagery tells its own story.
Frances ha
IFC Films
By  · Published on November 14th, 2016

Put basically, Noah Baumbach’s Frances Ha is about how relationships, particularly friendships, change as people transition from their youth to adulthood. Using Frances (Greta Gerwig) and Sophie (Mickey Sumner) as its focus, the film explores how people grow apart as they grow up, how some mature or settle down quicker than others, and the disenfranchised emotional and developmental purgatory in which those others can get left behind. It’s an interpersonal film, and as such it’s dependent on its characters to drive it – as opposed to events – which means it’s also dependent on dialogue, lots and lots of it. But that isn’t to imply Baumbach isn’t also telling his story cinematically through visual techniques like framing specifically, which tells its own version of events.

At the beginning of the film, as pointed out in this succinct video essay written and edited by Jop Leuven for Framed, the constant togetherness of Frances and Sophie’s friendship is shown by keeping them in the same frame at the same time. But as they begin to pull apart and other people enter the picture, they are first juxtaposed against each other in shot-countershots, then removed from one another visually. These images provide a boost to the emotional context of each scene and underscore the dialogue by driving home not the words but their impact, how bodies in space react to them, how they attract and repel physically.

Baumbach has, since Kicking and Screaming, demonstrated himself as a keen capturer of the particular ennui that comes from being 20-something, but it is in Frances Ha that his technical prowess steps up to the level of his narrative, and the result is, in many opinions besides mine, his best work to date.

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Novelist, Screenwriter, Video Essayist