Nomadland: an Interpretation of Life and Its Existence

An Interpretation of Existence

Nomadland, directed by Chloé Zhao, is a story or interpretation of life and its existence, about nomadic life habits but philosophically about dwelling and visual expression. Apart from the modern nomads, almost everyone has no place to live anymore, so they make the long, barren, and dusty streets their homes focused on Fern. She is an older woman, preferring to listen to each nomad’s advice and stories rather than talk past herself. Apart from being the new nomadic in street life, a great recession hit America and Fern’s city. Her late husband built a household that immediately became a ghost town; all livelihood factories were closed. She takes street life in a van, moves from job to job, meets person to person, and travels far and wide. Still, while living a new lifestyle and having a community, solitude always hits herself.

Nomadland is an extraordinary film. With the placement and movement of the camera seeming simple, it is significant. Apart from adding a lot to the story, in the beginning, it shows Fern working in a factory and, in the following moments taking place in an open environment. It is not only a phenomenal view. However, he was stunned to see that the location became a story stage with exotic places in the typical American wilderness like western films. Often the colors that support the mood will enhance the eye’s main meal. For a specific person, the appearance of the rock formation outcrop stopped by Fern will spoil the geological senses.

A Journey Without Purpose

Apart from being a typical drama film with a plot without objectives, a matter of purpose, Nomadland is about a journey without a narrative but a cinematographic nervousness. Authenticity is present through the setting and writing; it shows effort through observation and appropriate sources. Linda May and Swankie are also real nomads, represented by the well-known figure in the American nomad community, namely Bob Wells, famous for inspiring many people to live a nomadic lifestyle. The pioneer of the nomad convention, Rubbert Tramp Rendevouz, became a side character to fill the spare time and journey of Fern’s life. Each supporting character has their own story. There are wanderers of desire, and there are emotional stories where wandering life is about a cure for mental wounds.

Regardless of which, Nomadland is not about visually stunning views in addition to the interpretation of life and its existence. Instead, it is a film about how the camera behaves in displaying it. It is about Chloé Zhao puts Fern, her human character, on a scale that leads the audience’s understanding of the world either narrowly or broadly. The connection is with capitalism, but it is also ironic that even though it separates from society to escape from a system, it makes the design similar to its essence, as the central theme’s idea. None of that desert or plain, factory, or parking lot belonged to Fern. The corporation or other human has it all, which creates a sense of injustice, or alienation itself, to the protagonist.

Presence Through Panorama

Movement and cameras always follow Fern, inviting the audience to go on a meaningful empty journey. Zhao entrusted his vision entirely to Frances McDormand, welcoming the cameras with her acting as Fern. Never mind, it is a correct choice. Fern would be an annoying and unlikeable character if only actors with fewer games other than McDormand played him. She understands the surface, about a person who tries to be strong and independent. When she is least sure of herself, she believes that she needs someone else’s help. Fern only faintly smiled when she heard the conversation about reality from her nomadic friends she met. Instantly, Fern remembered her late husband as well.

The wide-angle shows a panoramic view of the location with natural lighting and beautiful nature. As Fern strolls through a nomadic camp until calm opens up, gentle cinematography combines with Ludovico Einaudi’s melancholy piano scoring strains, creating a warm and cozy vibe as if crossing the streets and every responsive moment is home to Fern and other nomads. It is a production-quality with writing, commonly found in Best Picture, classically, and true stories inspiring and adapting to the script. Artistic cinematography and strong main characters’ appearance have succeeded in making Nomadland and interpretation tale about another choice in life through existence, namely as a nomad or nomad. It is no different from everyday life. There is a warmth to the basic meaning of a lifestyle.

The Volumes

The interpretation in Nomadland shows how small Fern felt through the life, moments, and existence when she was left behind by reality and experience, apart from going through the problems of capitalism and searching for the meaning of life. Fern, who met a nomadic society, stays with him for a few days at a location but becomes Fern’s friend. However stiff it may seem, Fern is always looking for friends. She even read a poem for a young man she just met on the street. What Fern felt when the nomads finally left also the audience felt it.

As each of them nonchalantly pulled out, Fern stayed where she was. The visual focused on Fern, watching the cars go. McDorman’s subtle emotions as Fern speak volumes. There is no score to understand and touch Fern and McDormand’s feelings with the intention and vision of the director to make the emotion of the theme of the film not in a jarring expression. Without conflict, anger, and grudge, there is just a burst of emotion about Fern’s calm swimming in the river at the film’s end.

A Natural Semi-documentary

The nomadic community makes Nomadland even more unique, where Zhao seems to let McDormand go to the middle of nowhere and native nomads, not actors. Functioned to tell stories as support, there are at least three nomadic figures who act as themselves. In addition to a mixture of story characters with original characters, Nomadland is like a natural semi-documentary style. On the other hand, talk and the nomadic lifestyle seem more exciting and authentic.

The nomads also gave Fern’s characteristics that she looked alive, with human emotions, and with the appearance of worthy acting. Nothing undermines each other. However, compared to the original nomads’ authenticity, the melancholy aspect of being Fern makes her less attractive. In a sense, she is a spiritual and healing artificial in which all emotions are with her while happiness is with the original nomads. To sum up, Nomadland’s main point shows a sadness, cornered by joy, as a manifestation.

Nomadland left a mixed impression, in a good way; it is also a story about people initially forced to fall in love on the road and the beginning and end of Fern having no answer whether it has reached her complete destination or not. However, it does show how the theme lifted a hurdle from Fern’s character design itself. Regarding capitalism, exile, alienation, the meaning of life, or even the meaninglessness of life, after all, the powerhouse at Oscar won the stage itself. Moment by moment speaks volumes with appearance, and the use of non-actors as supporting characters is an artificial side point with the subtle narrative of termites behind the mixed feeling, just like what the film wants to tell.

Bibliography

About the author

Salman Al Farisi is the owner of Calxylian and is an elitist who has enjoyed and studied various mediums. He earned his Bachelor of Arts in 2020 from the Haluoleo University, Indonesia, where he studied English Literature, Film Criticism, Cultural Studies, Literary Theory, and Literary Criticism. He lives in Kendari in his mom's basement, now unemployed and ghostwriter, life with his cats, and is looking for the future.

Comments

  1. My sister is such a nomad, traveling across the country from one camp to another. It is a life she enjoys. If I did not have property to tie me down, I might enjoy it as well.

    1. That’s quite a story to be honest. Being a nomad is indeed an experience that has quite a lot of joys and sorrows. I want to hear more from the viewpoints of other nomads. Thank you.

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