Nothing’s Changed A poem by Tatamkhulu Afrika
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The film starts with low camera shot of a can or a circular piece of rubbish in the grass reflecting the bright sky and a reflecting and dark image of an elderly man walking past with a stick. The low camera shot makes us feel as if we were actually in the grass or a piece of rubbish in the grass. The reflection gives the audience an idea that the writer’s poem is all reflecting back on the past and maybe the blurred image of the man reflection could symbolise how blurred his life is, or how he doesn’t know where he stands with the apartheid situation.
This is the first of many reflections throughout the film also it also illustrates a ‘small mean O’ which is mentioned later on in the poem; ‘Leaving small mean O of small, mean mouth. ‘ Soon after, a man with old-fashioned brown shoes, treading on dusty stony ground, by showing only a sketchy reflection and the shoes of the man, creates a sense of mystery and wonder about who it is.
Just after this a young boy briskly walks past, bends down and picks up a stick, it appears to the audience that it is the same person who is seen in the reflection and the same person whose feet are seen treading on the stones, as the same clothes are worn apart from the shoes which are white, the change from man to boy is quite subtle and hardly noticeable to the audience but quite effective because if it is noticed it gives the viewer an idea that the film is going to alternate between man and boy throughout the film like he is looking back on his life.
The alternation between man and boy not only continues throughout the film but it becomes more obvious, maybe this is because ‘boy again’ is not mentioned until the end and instead of just springing it upon us, the director has decided to gradually show it to us. The boy may have been shown to pick up a stick to show his emotions in the film as later on when in the film it cuts across to his hand grasping this stick, this really shows his anger and disappointment.
I think that the director makes the two people to look the same to show the man’s past life and present life in District 6 in one go, it enforces the title of ‘Nothing’s Changed’ as they both appear to look the same. Perhaps the director is trying to show that nothing’s changed by keeping the man and the boy in the same clothes and show that only little things have changed by just changing the shoes of the boy.
It is not mentioned in the poem that he is a boy until the last verse; I back from the glass boy again. ‘ But the director of the film decides to alternate the character of boy and man from the beginning as it works better to show the contrast because there lots of things that need to be contrasted like the upper class ‘whites only inn’ and the ‘working man’s cafe’ The ‘seeding grasses’ that ‘thrust bearded seeds’ is shown very well in the film, it is a very low camera shot which makes the grass look tall and significant.
The bearded seeds that ‘thrust’ are really emphasized by having such a low camera angle and seem to represent a violent and unpleasant surrounding. The elderly man brushes past the tall grass and pushes them away in a violent action with hand, this particular scene shows quite a lot of emotion and anger as is shows that he doesn’t want to see all this grassland of where district 6 used to be and that he’d rather see district 6. When the cans are trodden on and not really cared about, also the fact that they are in the tall, purple-flowering, amiable weeds. ‘
Suggests that the new District 6 is trying to grow nicely back but the can or debris of the old, are making it unpleasant. In the film, the camera zooms in on the elderly man looking up at the sky, the image is very blurred and only the sky and part of the suns glare is in focus, to me this suggests, like the reflection, that he doesn’t understand the apartheid and things are only clear outside District 6 but in it he sees everything unclear.
Also he just walked through all the weeds and when he exits it with the backlighting, there us a sense of power that he can cope with anything. Smashed glass on the ground in the grass reflects the boy, this to me show that he is reflecting on his unhappy past. It then it cuts to the man standing confidently and angry in medium -shot, he is positioned at the left side of the screen and the surroundings are clearly visible, this could be to show things how they are in District 6 now i. e. how untidy, unpleasant and how full of debris it is.
It then cuts to a low shot as he turns over a piece of debris left over from the old District 6, I think he does this as if he was uncovering the old District 6 that lay underneath the new, as if to suggest that the new District 6 is a bad mask for the old. Body language plays an important part in this part of the film, as there are many things that show us how the man is feeling first the man reaches for his right arm, which is close to his body, and holds on to it, he appears to look insecure as if he does not feel at home, or upset about the position that he is in.
The camera pans left from his hair to his eye which is an extreme close-up shot of his eye, The eye shows anger quite clearly to the audience that he is upset with what has become of District 6, but this is not the only significance of this 2 second shot of the eye, within the eye, there is a reflection of a small disc, once again maybe referring to the ‘small mean O. ‘
This is followed by an extreme close-up of the man’s mouth, this is a very powerful shot I thought as it portrays lots of emotion just by one movement of his bottom lip, it shows all the tension that he has got just by a tiny movement in a 2 second shot. Finally in this scene a close up shot of his hair is shown showing how old he has got and how much has not changed during that time.
The Inn is shown to be a bright pleasant place amongst the grass, as it is made to sound like a very pleasant place in the poem; Brash with glass name flaring like a flag, it squats in the grass and weeds, incipient Port Jackson trees: new up-market, haute cuisine, guard at the gatepost whites only inn. ‘ As the this verse is said a medium shot through a window, of a white man eating at the inn is shown, and simultaneously the reflection of the black man is shown, creating some kind of image for the audience of a barrier between whites and blacks, not only does it show this but it also show the look on his face as he is looking through the window.
There are many things in this film that re small and seem very insignificant and this is one of them; when one of the waiters inside the inn wipes his fingers on the back of a chair, he then rubs his fingers and his thumb together as if to signal ‘we’ve got money’ or ‘this is expensive. ‘ There is a guard standing outside the gatepost of the Inn, he stands with confidence and authority with quite plain features, a conclusion that it is a whites only inn can be drawn as there is a guard first of all and he is a white guard.
An extreme close-up shot of the guard’s sunglasses is shown giving another reflection looking out on the open land of District 6, with the elderly man standing far away looking very uneasy about himself, this would show the audience how out of place the black people of District 6 feel. As the audience is looking through the reflection of the guard’s sunglasses they looking through the guard’s point of view and creates a long shot, also, like the window in the restaurant, it creates another barrier between the whites and blacks.
The guards eyes cannot be seen through his glasses which emphasises his power as it appears that he cannot be harmed by anything he see around him. On the line; ‘No sign says it is: but we know where we belong. ‘ There is a neutral shot from inside the as it is not on anybody’s side and it is just watching what goes on around it, the black man is standing out side; ‘I press my nose to the clear panes’
As it is doing this a hand comes across the screen to put a jug of water on the table, as it is a whites in it would be expected to be a white hand but instead it is a black hand, this is similar to the introduction of the man and the boy as it is quite subtle, making the audience think why there is a black man serving food and drink but it becomes clear in the next scene. A black man is shown to be cleaning a nice, pretty crystal wine glass, this is showing that the black people who have been thrown out of their homes are now working in whites only inns, so really nothing has changed as the blacks are still being discriminated.
A single rose’ is placed into a vase on a table, most of the attention is focused on the way that the rose is placed, the black waiter who is doing it, handles the beautiful carefully cultivated rose very carefully, the audience would fell sorry for the waiter as he is a man who has been thrown out of his home with practically nothing and made to handle expensive things that he cannot have. Next it is the boy who is in a ‘working man’s cafe’ which is a great contrast with the expensive inn. ‘Down the road, working man’s cafe sells, unny chows. ‘
Bunny chows is a lot different to the ‘haute cuisine’ which was served in the inn as all it is, is pilchards inside bread which is quite unpleasant, the colours used in the film for the working man’s cafe are quite dull i. e. grey, white and not very many bright colours, whereas in the inn the colours were very vivid giving it a much nicer atmosphere. The ‘working man’s cafe’ is made to look very cheap by not having any cutlery or any table cloth, and also by having to eat ‘at a plastic table’s top. ‘
‘Take it with you, eat t at a plastic table’s top, wipe your fingers on your jeans, spit a little on the floor: it’s in the bone’ In the film the boy puts his hand in some spilt coke on the table’s top, suggesting to the viewer that nobody bothers to clean up after the other customers whereas in the inn ‘a single rose’ is placed on your table. The boy wipes his hand on his jeans, just illustrating the poem. As the boy reaches for his drink, the camera pans left quickly to see the glass get knocked on the floor and smash, this can be interpreted in two ways.
One of them is the boy knocked it on the floor by accident, if this is the case the audience would sympathise with the boy as he is a poor boy who has paid for a drink and spilt it all, the second is that he knocked it on the floor with rage, maybe he is angry with why he has to eat in a working man’s cafe and the whites get to eat in an upper class inn, I can not be sure how the director has interpreted it.
I think that it would work better if it was clear what he actually was doing, I prefer to think that he knocked it over in rage as it has more of an impact to the audience. In the last verse, the scene is filmed from inside the inn in a full shot, it shows the elderly black man standing outside the window of the inn, with a rose inside the inn out of focus, this could be the barrier between the harsh and nasty outside and the pleasant and happy inside world of the whites.
The camera pans quickly to the right and behind something in the restaurant, when the man is shown again he has changed into the boy; ‘I back from the glass, boy again,’ this is where all the discs that have been seen during the film all conclude to one thing which is his anger when he backs from the glass. ‘leaving small mean O of small, mean mouth. ‘ This is also where the stick plays some part as the man walks back clutching his stick with anger and so does the boy so they both need sticks for it to work, or other wise one would have to pick up a stone or a bomb; Hands burn for a stone, a bomb, to shiver down the glass. ‘
The film ends with a flash of fire wiping across the screen, representing the boys anger and then ‘Nothing’s Changed’ is said, this is quite powerful as instead of actually showing the boy break the glass with rage, fire is just used to show how he feels. The music throughout the film is a loop of tribal style music, maybe suggesting of going back to a wasteland of a desert land, which has been left.
The tribal style music consisted of drums and a flute sounding instrument giving the atmosphere of the area being dry and hot, along with the colours used, it is also played on a loop so this could be representing the fact that ‘Nothing’s changed. ‘ Throughout the film there is a nondiegetic voiceover of the author of ‘Nothing’s Changed,’ Tatamkhulu Afrika, reading his poem, this has a tremendous effect on the audience as it shows that he means what he is saying so much that it requires his own voice to get the message across.
The deepness of his voice also adds to how powerful his reading is, as it seems like he is demanding or angry. He speaks at a steady pace, this gives the audience time to interpret what he is saying and it gives a sense of seriousness to the poem. A thing that really made the film effective is the fact that it was read by the author with his South African accent, it shows that he knows what he is talking about as he was brought up there.