#4 Prompt – No Direction Home

An opening scene can sometimes be seen as a precursor to the rest of the film. Describe all of the information released in this beautifully constructed 2 min sequence edited by Thelma Schoonmaker that opens Martin Scorsese’s 2005 film, No Direction Home. What do you think Scorsese and Schoonmaker have told us about the rest of the film?

The documentary ‘No Direction Home: Bob Dylan’ traces the life and music of a singer-songwriter (Bob Dylan) and his impact on American popular music and culture from 1961 to 1966. ‘The footage was accumulated over years,’ said by Martin Scorsese, the director of the documentary, ‘The ultimate challenge is how to find the story.’

The documentary start with a live show. The lyrics, ‘no direction home, I gotta be alone’, directly brings out the theme and the name of the documentary. The live show reveals that the person who stands on the middle of the stage with an electric guitar and a harmonica is the core role of the documentary and who will be seen in the rest of the film. His musical talent had fully explained his influence to the American popular music during that period of time.1   

Then a mysterious piece of  footage pops out with some half – veiled trees that in a hazy and indeterminate fog which gave me a sense of loneliness and homelessness. I don’t know where is it. Maybe the way to Dylan’s home or a deeper meaning to show the theme of the documentary. Regard camera as Dylan who is standing in the bad situation that he can not see anything, he can not find way out to present the harsh time in his life.


Dylan talks openly about his earlier life. The trees, the house, the old picture and the gramophone record in black and white color and the slow pan and zoom in shot are following the off-screen voice and background music. Surely, it is Dylan’s voice that he was talking about his childhood and something important to him. Moreover, the black and white still image and footage play a significant role in telling his experience.


Thelma Schoonmaker’s skillful editing of interviews, archival footage, and performance film brought us a historical, nostalgic and times-changing portrait of an American idol and American culture. The result is a work of remarkable scope and insight that captures, as far as possible, the essence of a man, his music and poetry, and his vanguard era. As Scorsese says, “There is no other musical artist who weaves his influences so densely to create something so personal and unique.”



Roger Ebert, 2005, ‘No direction home: Bob Dylan’, viewed at 3 June 2015, <http://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/no-direction-home-bob-dylan-2005>.


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