No one says, “Hey, Jean, list that sequence of events again! That was the best!” But pretty much everyone has said something like, “Oh, I can’t do that story justice. Jean, can you tell it?” The experience is the story.
You intuitively get meaning and importance when a story is told in a way that delights, excites, or moves you. This is the world of the aesthetic, the world of feeling things fully. Beauty, interpretation, emotion. All of this comes when a story is told in a way that understands that humans are listening.
Often though, as storytellers, we can get so focused on the story we are telling that we forget the people we are we are telling it to. This happens in movies when the villain explains the entirety of his diabolical plan just because we are already 80 minutes into the film and have run out of time to play it out properly. It happens when a commercial focuses so tightly on the features and benefits that it forgets why the product matters to a person’s life in the first place. And it plays out in animation when characters move around but lose all touch with who’s watching, what it means to them, and ultimately why they should care as a viewer.
This video doesn’t do that. It could have, though. It could’ve been summed up pretty easily:
- A girl had feelings for a boy.
- She moved away, and communication ceased.
- Later, they re-established communication.
It is, of course, absurd to tell it in such a reductionist way. But why?
Because a dry list of points is only as good as the story you add to the gaps. All of the value must be made in your mind. A story needs to be presented in a way that leads you to it, not letting you get lost in the gaps.
On the flip side, the creators of this video didn’t overly fill in the gaps. They played the middle, painting partial pictures that elicit just the kind of meaning that’s supposed to be filled in. Beautifully nostalgic images of a love lost and regained, of innocence and violence, of cultural identity and connection to roots.
The creators of this video understood the value of human experience. As layers and motion are painting in the backgrounds, the video is filling in the details of the story like we do in our minds. Something that is simultaneously whole and incomplete, fluid and concrete.
They knew that the value of this story wasn’t in the strict understanding of exactly what happened, but instead in the experience of what it meant to the woman speaking, how it felt. She didn’t simply recount happenings of her youth. She lavished us with the experience of “kissing my entire childhood, the ancestors that are buried there, my entire life that could have been.” That is what we, as the audience, connect with. It’s the lens through which we see the facts—and then feel the feels.
We all understand things through experiencing meaning, not just comprehending events. So consider how you say the things you say; humans are listening.
Written by Daniel Armstrong, Director of Design