Watching Marc Isaacs’ Lift for the first time I was completely unsure on when it was made – until I heard one of the “characters” mention an internet café, which placed it somewhere between ’95 and ‘05. The guerilla aesthetic of the film made for a suitable distraction from the image quality, which otherwise would’ve dated the film instantly; the run-and-gun style suggests the camera may have just have been whatever he could get hold of, the same even now in 2017. This is also an aesthetic that makes the more outrageous “characters” far more credible – imagine seeing these people in a traditional interview set-up, it’d be comical. This is one of those inspiring situations in which a technical limitation adds to, without overpowering, a film’s style and character.
Time within the film also confused me. I was shocked to find out Marc only spent two weeks shooting the film, as this means the narrative of each “character” plays out quite quickly (the break-up for example). Being trapped in a confined space with only artificial light doesn’t help establish a sense of time, nor do the two separate night time shots, the only shots outside the tower block – neither of which fall on a narrative evening or ending, adding to this sense that time is irrelevant to Marc Isaacs. In particular, the segments with John, the man whose parents died when he was younger, raised questions about time; with most of the other “characters” we get a chance to meet them before Marc begins probing with question, John was immediately asked “What’s on your mind today?” This makes me question how much time Marc had spent with John before asking anything; how much did Marc see in him before initiating a dialogue – I know the audience seemed to see a lot, pain and toil and weight.
The form factor of the documentary is also quite timeless, quite a typical length for a TV show with adverts – about a half-hour of programming on Channel 4 – which isn’t long and isn’t particularly short; interestingly it manages to feel much longer, without becoming boring at all.
Thanks for reading (I’m back after a long summer)