The Value of Contrast

I love the Super Bowl. I love the sheer excess of the whole thing, from the pre-game show, the ads through the game itself and of course the half-time show. It’s quintessentially American (I mean that as a complement). Everything about it is huge, but last night was more defined for me by the quiet moments.

The first was Alicia Keys’ rendition of the American national anthem. It wasn’t what I expected. Having watched the Super Bowl for the last five years I was expecting a “show-off” performance, more about the singer than the song. That’s how it felt to me before last night. But Keys did something I haven’t seen before at the Super Bowl; she accompanied herself. Following Jennifer Hudson whaling over the Sandy Hook Elementary choir, she went entirely the opposite way, performing the anthem with a sincere mix of melancholy, pride and hope. It felt like she was singing the meaning of the words rather than the words themselves, and consequently I really listened to, and thought about the words in a way I hadn’t in the past. I thought it was a spectacular performance.

The other quiet moment (relatively speaking) was the Iron Man 3 spot. In a night where big movies do everything they can to sell themselves, the Iron Man 3 spot didn’t go for the collection of big action moments the way the other spots did. Okay, it’s *an* action moment, but what’s staggering about it is the restraint – the focus on one scene, really just the one character; it sets up the way he is tested in the movie and the choices he has to make. That 30 seconds made the movie compelling to me in a way that none of the other Iron Man trailers have. It’s not flashy, it’s just about character, and it stood out because it dared to be different to the others.

The reason the quiet moments work is contrast. Being unlike the other things around them. And by showing both sides, they make the big loud moments are all the more powerful too.


A couple of stray observations;

– the Star Trek Into Darkness trailer goes very quiet half-way through as well, but only audibly, not visually. But at least we’re moving away from Inception-style booms in every single trailer out there.

– Another notably quiet moment; when the power went out. Not intended, obviously, but memorable.