The film, American Splendor, took on a twist with introverting graphic images within the narrative. The film dealt with more than just the involvement of characters playing roles that were made from a comic book, which was the doing of Harvey Pekar. His story was a combination of his graphic images, the real like characters replaying his story, and himself and other actual people who were part of his stories and close friends. A very three-dimensional viewing of storytelling.
In Meyer’s article she explained that “this documentation-meets-narrative-meets-comic-book”. Overall this involvement of graphic images and comic book writing brought life to the dull life of Harvey who was no more than a lonely depressed man who eventually found love and then was hit with cancer. Some doodles of himself pop of regularly and seem as a sense of conscious and created a parallel of communication from doodle to an actual living person. This unusual presence is what grabs the attention of the audience and keeps them entertained, which is what Forney does with her different types of comics—mania influenced and structured.
“ The resulting film—about the life and work of a file clerk who finds love, family, and a creative life by documenting his everyday existence in a series of comic books—moves seamlessly between biopic, documentary, and animated comic book to create a new form — [phantasmagorical]” (Meyers, 41). These three different levels of communication and interpretation can all be found within the film, which significantly separates it from a graphic novel like Forney’s. Forney uses the comic book doodles to signify her own physical states, which are represented through the organization, spacing on pages, and the mania. Involving not only graphic images makes the piece easier to relate to, because you then have three outlets to connect with instead of one.
The film takes time to adapt with, because overall it is a new way to conduct film. Opening up with comic book boxes, moving into acted out scenes of Harvey’s daily life, and then adding in the actual Harvey who is on a white set with which seems to be the filming crew behind the scenes. Being able to hear from the actual Harvey as the film goes on lets the audience draw a bigger picture.
Moving from different scenes of different medium but conducting one single film in a fluent time of Harvey’s lifespan is more than intriguing. With a graphic novel you find excitement with what will be in the next box or on the next page but with a film like this you find excitement in the whole being because its out of your comfort zone of film watching. It combines a graphic novel to film and background thoughts—boom.
Combining all three elements can make for a tricky film to understand but it also makes for an interesting one where your mind feels the need to stay focused. Interesting/unusual is what gave this film the volume of popularity and the want of media and fans to interact with Harvey. We are always looking for something new, to make something different and that’s exactly what the producers did with this film. A very personal life story of Harvey that ended with his loneliness being done away with, he gained love and desired attention from fans, coworkers, family, etc.
- American Splendor. Dir. Berman, Shari and Robert Pulcini. Fine Line Features, 2004. DVD.
- Meyer, Andrea. “The Strange and Wonderful World of American Splendor” Independent Film & Video Monthly (Sep 2003):41-43.