Surely I’m not the only who gets exhausted after (or during) a viewing of an indie film. Not that that is bad in any way, but I have noticed that when I go to the theaters and see something “mainstream” and “lowbrow,” I can continue with my day un-phased. But after watching Buffalo ’66, for example, it will be much more difficult to simply accept the film and what I just experienced. This is because most indie movies are complex; they challenge the viewer to step out of their comfort zones and think about more challenging concepts that one wouldn’t normally in your day to day life.
Newman expands on this. He offers three explanations as to why indie movies are more challenging and convoluted than Hollywood films. The first is that “characters are emblems.” Indie films use their characters more purposefully. They are devices used to enhance the theme of the movie, be it social, political, or anything that questions the norm. In Buffalo ’66, Billy is clearly troubled due to inattentive parents and romantic rejection. Wendy/Layla also has some sort of Stockholm syndrome going on too but by losing her own identity, she helps deepen Billy’s character. These characters offer us a glimpse into a different life (poverty, unpopularity, suicidal/murderous thoughts) that we may know nothing about.
Newman’s second viewing strategy is to consider the form of the film as a game. In Buffalo ’66, we get glimpses of Billy’s past that help us piece together his motives and understand his actions more. By showing us a false ending, the director is tricking the viewer, like a manipulative game-master. This device involves the viewer and makes them emotionally connected and involved. When we are challenged by a film through it’s form, we will be more attentive, trying to catch the quirks and devices the director uses. These choices the director makes in the film make are very “anti-Hollywood” which is another of the viewing strategies Newman mentions. Indie films challenge the banality of mainstream cinema and also challenge us to think while we entertain ourselves.
Overall, Newman disregards the economical side of Indie and focuses on culture. He places importance on discourse and how the audience will react to a highbrow film. Through realistic characters, form that keeps the audience involved and active, and by just being different, indie films offer us a more substantial experience.