Barry Jenkins’ Moonlight – heard of it? – is an episodic, unresolved character study that covers brief interludes at three points in the life of Chiron, a young, impoverished, black male struggling with his sexuality as well as his place in the world-at-large. It is subtle, sublime, intentionally open-ended and defiant of traditional storytelling parameters as well as traditional dramatic filmmaking techniques. Moonlight is a fever dream of emotionality, a dark slice of interpersonal trauma dressed in vibrant color, and an at-times hallucinatory exploration of a developing soul in turmoil, a being like a bird mired in tar struggling upwards but bound by the sticky strands of his environment, which seek to incorporate him into their stagnant trap.
Every single facet of Moonlight is integral to the tone and atmosphere of the film, without exception: narrative, performances, direction, photography, sound, lighting, production design, editing and more come together in unique, innovative, and unexpected ways to produce this most original, most powerful film, one many are starting to consider one of the most significant in the medium’s century-plus-long history.
In the following, indispensable video essay from Screen Prism, the structure, cinematography (by James Laxton), sound (score by Nicholas Britell) and symbolism of Moonlight are all examined in depth to discover their individual strengths as well as their collaborative synergy. In the grand scheme of things, we’ve only begun to talk about the merits of Moonlight, but this video serves as an excellent primer or jumping board from which the conversation can unfurl. No matter how recently you’ve seen it, you need to watch Moonlight again; make sure you give this video a look first to enhance your re-viewing experience.