NPR’s February 13, 2015 picture story about a priest and nun who fell in love is the topic of this visual/aural reflection. A Brother and Sister in Love was created and narrated by their son, John Fugelsang.
As the story begins, an organ hums while the narrator tells a joke about being catholic. The words “SHAME + GUILT = CATHOLIC” appear against a backdrop of gray clouds. This, along with the sound of the organ, creates a feeling of religiosity and provides background for the story.
The narrative is composed in media res. Early in the story a wedding picture of the main characters reveals the resolution to the story. Seeing a photo of the narrator’s father in priestly robes introduces the conflict of love versus a vow of celibacy. His head is slightly bowed, as if unsure of himself. Two priests in a photo represent the turning point when the priest’s superior encourages him to marry.
Rising action is felt looking at a photo of a nun while the narrator explains his mother first threw his father out when he confessed his love. Then, falling action is seen with pictures showing the couple growing old together. A photo of the father holding a baby coincide with the narrator’s kicker that he is soon to be a father himself.
Voiceovers by the narrator are the only actualities in the piece. Silence is used powerfully with a pregnant pause mid sentence by the narrator right before he reveals his mother had been a nun. Clapping and laughter in the opening scene add background sound but other than that, music provides the ambiance.
An organ’s hum sets the tone and tempo for the story and create a feeling of place. Instrumental music is also heard, sometimes with the organ and sometimes layered beneath the narration. The music, with the volume varying from soft to loud, melds nicely with the photos and helps highlight parts of the story. It creates emotion and carries the story along.
Photo composition techniques discussed in class are included in this piece. The opening scene shows an unexpected angle with a man pictured on the far left leaving the rest of the canvas blank. Two priests are framed by a doorway behind them. A picture of a man, table, lamp, vase and hanging ceiling light form a spiral composition. There is also a photo of the narrator’s father that has leading lines pointing toward his face.
Imperfect grainy and blurry photos include one with eyes closed and another picture someone looking the wrong direction. A wedding picture is captured under a dusty furnace vent. Several close-up pictures look as if taken by zooming with the feet. Even with imperfections the photos immerse the viewer in the story giving a sense of time and familiarity.
Pictures of priests in their robes is inclusive of a profession that has come under scrutiny in the last few years. The theme of dark clouds that appear throughout the narrative are imaginative giving the story almost an otherworldly feel.
Summing it all Up
A Brother and Sister in Love is a touching story that successfully provides a compelling experience of story and entertains its audience using audio and photos. Something I would do differently is open with a video not a photo. That would offer better contrast with the old photographs that follow.
An idea for my own work that I gleaned from this piece is using a collection of photographs in the story’s title area. I like the way it draws the audience into the story.