In the 1950s and 1960s, young artists such as Martin Scorsese, Francis F. Coppola and George Lucas had to enroll in a university in order to gain access to equipment. Nowadays it is easy to be a filmmaker, as the production costs of a film have declined dramatically in the last 20 years. It is even possible to shoot an entire feature on a mobile phone. One of the best surprises of 2015, Tangerine (Sean S. Baker), was shot using an iPhone. Thanks to these changes, low-budget films like Little Pieces — which cost just £6,000 — and Benny Loves Killing (Ben Woodiwiss, 2012) — at just £4,000 — have been made possible. But access to good equipment does not necessarily mean quality.
Nearly a century ago, the Cinematograph Films Act of 1927 was introduced in order to stimulate the declining British film industry. It established a quota of British films in British cinemas. Its aim was to create a vertically integrated film industry, in which production, distribution and exhibition infrastructure are controlled by the same companies. This objective was not reached, but at least the Act helped to equip new filmmakers, thereby creating “quota quickies”. They were mostly low-cost, poor quality and highly experimental films made very quickly.
In many ways, Little Pieces is similar to these “quickies”. Firstly, it was shot in just 19 days. It tells the story of Michael and Eric, “two young men on a collision course with the world around them”. The film opens and closes with a man running, but it is quite difficult to understand what he is running from. Indeed it is tough to engage with the story from the beginning, for there is neither a climax nor thrilling sequences. The mise-en-scene is empty and poor, and the few random props do little for the narrative. The lighting is poor and the camerawork feels casual and careless, to the point of inexplicably fading out.
The filmmaker Adam Nelson affirms that his most important influence is Stanley Kubrick, but Little Pieces does not resonate any of the genius American filmmaker’s films. Kubrick possibly mastered more genres than any other director. His works include horror (The Shining, 1980), war movies (Full Metal Jacket, 1987), sci-fi (2001: A Space Odissey, 1968), classic (Spartacus, 1960), political satire (Dr. Strangelove, 1964) and period drama (Barry Lyndon, 1975).
Though some of the actors come from an acting course background, performances are meagre. It feels that the actors — and not the characters — have little focus and direction. There is a fine line between actor and character that often is disregarded in the film.
The soundtrack is clichéd, leading the audience to a melodramatic and sentimentalist response. Music, or the absence of music, is meant to enrich the narrative, or to another layer for the interpretation of the film, but sadly this is not the case here.
The film has a number of good aerial shots, though. The problem is that these little pieces of happiness do not add up to an effective movie. Little Pieces has few innovative and daring elements, which makes it a mostly clean movie (read about our rating system here). If you want to watch Little Pieces, just tweet @AppleParkFilms and you will receive a code which enables you to watch it online.