Glimpses at PATHWAYS TO CINEMA

PATRICK HOLZAPFEL: Es geht dich nichts an, woher ich komme, wenn ich da bin, bin ich da. Heute wollen alle wissen, woher man kommt, aber mich interessiert mehr, wohin man geht. Wenn ich im Kino bin, komme ich von Nirgendwo, ich könnte überall herkommen und so soll es auch sein. Nur über das Kino habe ich genug gelogen, vielleicht auch, weil ich dort niemand erklären musste, woher ich komme. Ich war ganz einfach da, ganz so wie der Film, den wir sahen und das war alles, was zählte. So würde ich gern leben: als ob ich ins Kino ginge. Ich würde nicht handeln, nur wachsen. Es macht einen Unterschied, woher man kommt, werden alle sagen und obwohl ich ihnen nicht widerspreche, möchte ich meinen Weg für mich behalten. Du kannst selbst beurteilen, ob es geregnet hat, wo ich herkomme, oder ob die Sonne schien.

ANNA BABOS: After a day spent writing on my laptop, I want to use the walk to the cinema to look around, to see what surrounds me, not on the screen but in the world. Yet, I can’t help the bad habit of looking to the ground, looking at my feet as I put them one after another. It is quite understandable, my eyes got used to looking at a shorter distance, the 50 cm between my eyes and the laptop’s screen. So, I need a little bit of time to get used to the meters and kilometers of distance you can see when looking down the street. I also flirt with the idea that it’s maybe necessary for my brain, that it’s my body’s self-defense mechanism, since looking at the sidewalks and this monotone movement of mine is just a kind of brainwash, which helps me keep a distance from the work and the concerns of the day. It may be good for meditation but it’s sad to miss out on the vividness of one’s environment. In the end, the day’s highlight is coming out of the cinema, setting my eyes free.

ANDREW CHRISTOPHER GREEN: I rarely ever watch films at the cinema, but the past week on account of my being in Berlin I’ve taken a taxi from work to go to the Arsenal. They’ve programmed a series of films written by Yoko Mizuki and Sumie Tanaka and directed by Mikio Naruse. My job entails preparing a set of previews and checklists for upcoming fairs and exhibitions. The days have grown into twelve-hour stints. My boss sits next to me and tells me to shrink this image, move that one, make this one bigger, find a detail of this work… it’s like my spine has fused with the desktop I’m working on and his commands are also controlling the expansion and contraction of my stomach muscles. I don’t have any more thoughts by the time I get into the taxi. My mind is totally blank and I can experience it all without my thinking getting in the way. Thankfully my passivity doesn’t get taken advantage of; Naruse is a generous director. He’s neither manipulative nor calling attention to himself or the techniques he’s employing. Everything about his films and the sad stories they tell is incredibly subdued. And so, in the mornings, when I sit in the garden cafe at the Literaturhaus and journal what happened in the film the night before, it’s like I’m recalling a dream, surprised to discover that what has cast a mood over the day was all a product of the imagination.

DAVID PERRIN: Waren es nicht eher die langsamen hinausgezögerten Heimwege, nach dem Erlebnis eines Films, die mich aufatmen ließen, als die Wege ins Kino? Wenigstens war das fast immer meine Erfahrung und es war nicht so sehr ein Ins-Kino-Gehen, als ein Ins-Kino-Flüchten. Flüchten wovor? Vor allem möglichen: dem Lärm der Stadt; dem stumpfsinnigen Ich-Gefühl, das man überall mit sich herumtragen muss und den täglichen Fehlern, die man begeht; dem formlosen Wirrwarr der Gesten, in denen jeder Griff nach einem Gegenstand (einem Bleistift, einer Kaffeetasse) ins Dunkel geriet, wo jeder Schritt mit einem Stolpern ins Nichts bedroht ist.

Wie schön und selbstverständlich die Welt einem schließlich erscheint, wenn man mit neugeborenen Augen zuschauen kann wie ungeschickt und unbeholfen der James Stewart in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance als Kellner herumhantiert und fummelt und man spürt, wie die im Körper angesammelte Spannung sich endlich auflöst. Man tritt aus dem Kino und ist einverstanden mit seinem Dasein, spürt eine Empfindung des Getragen-Werdens, des Auf- und Anblickens der Welt, während man sich langsam auf dem Heimweg macht.

Doch es gab auch Wege ins Kino, die mich beflügelten und mir mein Lebensgefühl zurückgaben. Zum Beispiel, dieser Septembertag vor drei Jahren auf dem Weg ins Filmmuseum in Wien und mein kurzer Spaziergang davor im Burggarten: das warme Licht des Sonnenuntergangs; die auf den Grasflächen spielenden Kindern und die Erinnerung an die längst aus den Augen verlorenen Freuden der Kindheit; das Rauschen der Bäume und das Zwitschern der unsichtbaren Spatzen in den Ästen; das Flugzeug im Himmel und die dünnen hingehauchten Wolken; der wehende Wind zwischen meinen ausgespreizten Fingern und schließlich das Herbstgefühl, das sich einstellte und das mit jedem neuen Blick bestärkt wurde und wo ich dann dachte: Ja, das ist das wirkliche Kino. 

Und dann auch in einer anderen Stadt, zu einer anderen Jahreszeit, das Aufleuchten der Glühwürmchen im Friedhof gegenüber des Anthology Film Archives. Kleine Lichtpunkte, die in der Dämmerung vom Boden senkrecht in der Luft schwebten und bei diesem Anblick, das Gefühl, das der Tag, trotz der späten Zeit, erst jetzt wirklich anfing. Ein Bild, das ich mit ins Kino hineinbrachte. 

Und dann auch, schon wieder in einer anderen Stadt, das Leuchten des Schnees auf dem Asphalt, die wirbelnden Flocken in der Abendluft, die Kreischen der Vorortzüge in der Bahnsenke da unten und das allein stehende Kind, das auch ich einst war, vor dem Kino, dessen Türen noch geschlossen sind.

RONNY GÜNLGegenüber den architektonisch beeindruckenden Filmpalästen haben mich immer jene abseitigen Kinos angezogen, die sich etwas schüchtern in den schmuddeligen Nebengassen versteckten. Sie erscheinen erst auf den zweiten oder dritten Blick, während man durch eine noch fremde Stadt schlendert. Man durchstreift die Straßen in einem fiebrigen Gemisch aus Überforderung und Gelassenheit und plötzlich funkeln sie unversehens auf. Ihre schweigsame Präsenz erweckt den Anschein, als könnten sie den ganzen Trubel um sich herum aufsaugen.

Kinos anderer Städte zu besuchen, besitzt den anrüchigen Geschmack, ein Geheimnis zu entdecken. Das, mit dem man zu Hause so vertraut zu sein scheint. So sehr, dass sich sein magischer Schleier zu einem Nebel des Alltäglichen verwandelt hat. Zuhause ins Kino zu gehen geschieht selten spontan und noch weniger beiläufig. Zu oft ähnelt der Gang dem belanglosen Charakter einer alltäglichen Besorgung. Er verflüchtigt sich erst in dem Augenblick des Innehaltens, während man, angekommen am Kino, die vorübergehenden Menschen betrachtet.

Der Weg zum Kino ebnet sich, als warte man darauf, dass endlich irgendetwas passiert.

Ich trauere diesen verlorenen Gelegenheiten reumütig hinterher, als ich selbst ein fremdes Kino passiere. „Hätte ich denn etwas Besseres zu tun gehabt als ins Kino zu gehen?“, frage ich mich. Das Kino ist geschlossen, stelle ich mit einem Blick ins dunkle Innere durch die Fenster enttäuscht fest.

SEBASTIAN BOBIK: In the 1980s my mother lived in a small apartment in Santiago de Chile, right above a cinema called “Cine Arte Normandie”. She often tells me about her life then and the neon sign on the building across the street that would illuminate her bedroom at night. She loved to go downstairs at midnight or even 2 in the morning and take a seat in the theatre to watch films. The cinema itself was considered an arthouse theatre and she can recall experiences like seeing the films of Ingmar Bergman or Blue Velvet there for the first time. Whenever she tells me these stories of the small apartment and Cinema Normandy I can’t help but romanticise it and imagine what it would be like if I could live right above that cinema. I envision a warm summer night with an open window and the noise of traffic. My way to the cinema is the shortest I could wish for. I close the window of my bedroom and head through the kitchen and out of the door. I make sure I lock it and leave. Then all it takes is two flights of stairs that I rush down. Sometimes I meet neighbours on my way. They might be returning from a dinner they had in a restaurant or going out to a discotheque. I head past them and to the ground floor. There is a small ticket counter there. The young woman selling tickets already knows me. I come here all the time. I buy a ticket and immediately head into one of the small screening rooms. Except for me there are three or four, sometimes even five more people there, who are also curious spectators of the night. The room is rather small, the chairs have a leather cover that is already worn off in some places. During the summer it occasionally gets too hot, but in the evenings, it cools down again. We take our seats; the lights dim and the screen begins to shine. I dream of this being my personal way to the cinema, but I will probably never live this dream. These days the Cinema Normandy does not exist in the same building in which my mother lived anymore. It has moved to another location in Santiago. They still show films there.

IVANA MILOŠ: Sometimes I wonder what I enjoyed more – the path or the arrival. Racing on my bike through Vienna’s first district or towards Zagreb’s Tuškanac forest, almost falling over myself more often than not, another welcome addition to the gallery of screwball comedy characters I tend to keep close to heart. Always, always, a coil of unique energy unraveling in me, something close to a high, all just because I am about to meet the cinema. Something akin to that rapturous sensation of nurturing an age-long unrequited love in the very last moment of hope that it may be returned. Swift delight suffused with a sense of jubilation because I will meet those who will not talk back, where I myself will be able to remain silent while they enter my bloodstream. What makes up the shimmering embers of anticipation? What turns me into a firefly about to glow in the dark? None of these thoughts are present in the moment, they rear their heads only upon reflection. The moment itself is free, full of unknowing, and perhaps that is its saving grace. It is a gentle kind of craving about to be transformed by whatever emerges from the darkness. It is a secret, and my last footsteps towards the cinema are of the secretive sort. After the race, a moment of calm settles in. I got here early; I have ten minutes to spare. Depending on the fickle nature of my infatuation for what is to come, I will spend them lingering, loitering, and shuffling my feet awkwardly, or staring at objects, clouds, the sun or the rain. What I will never do is seek out attention or company. This is my own journey, and it does not end with the arrival to the cinema. Even if I meet someone I know inside and we end up seeing the film together, I have already set sail for what will live on in me a long time ago. Back when I started hurriedly throwing on clothes and urging my bike on as if it were a mythical horse of inexhaustible energy, back when leaves were flying in my wake as the first autumnal screenings filled up the first film theaters, back when the spring put a spring in my step as I breathed in the blossoms on my route over the Ringstraße, back when I fostered the kind of memories ready to disappear the moment I enter the darkness enveloped.

SIMON PETRI: There is no time to go home and detach the trailer carrying 20-30 kilograms of posters yet to be distributed or hanged on fences. Moreover, how could I lock the bicycle in a way that also protects the trailer and the posters? Maybe I can push it into the dumpster storage of the Film Museum’s café? The staff will surely be over the moon when I tell them the idea. And would the posters soak up the smell? It would be the 4D revolution of advertisement. On the other hand, imagine that weight behind me and how it accelerates my ride down Mariahilfer Straße. People would have to jump away in fright from the unhinged cyclist, pacing down with a psychotic look on his face, hoping to get to the cinema punctually. After a certain tempo, most of the posters would fly out of the trailer anyway. The kindly pedant citizens of Vienna would pick up the posters and put them on the fences, surrounding the ugly construction sites on Mariahilfer Straße. And everything would be fine in the end.

SIMON WIENERAuf dem Weg ins Kino geht mir durch den Kopf, was im Kino alles schief gehen könnte. Man hört von Menschen, die vom einen Moment auf den anderen ohne Fremdeinwirkung erblinden. Daran denke ich fast immer, wenn ich den Saal betrete, und meine schon leise ein Säuseln in den Augen zu vernehmen, ärgere mich ob der Schlieren, die mein Blickfeld durchziehen und langsam nach unten wandern. Skeptisch begutachte ich sie und warte fingertrommelnd darauf, dass sie sich konzentrisch ausbreiten, das Blickfeld in einen Nebel verwandeln. Auch eine Migräne beginnt mit Sehstörungen. Obwohl ich nur selten daran leide, glaube ich sie oft während des Vorspannes sich ankündigen zu sehen und blinzle abwechselnd mit den Augen, um zu kontrollieren, ob da nicht eine Unschärfe, ein blinder Fleck die Leinwand befallen hat. Was, wenn mich mitten in der Vorstellung ein Schwindel befiele, vom vielen ungewohnten Hochschauen vielleicht, oder von der Konzentriertheit dieser Farben, die mich unsanft überschwemmen; wenn ich das Bewusstsein verlöre, einen Herzanfall bekäme, und matt zur Seite sackte? Ein Zuschauer hinter mir vernähme wohl nichts Ungewöhnliches an meinem Absacken und glaubte viel eher, ich wäre eben zur Seite gerückt, um so angenehmer oder andächtiger die Leinwand beobachten zu können; staunte vielleicht gar anerkennend, dass jemand diesem Schrottfilm eine solche Andächtigkeit entgegenbrachte. Selbst ein stundenlanges Verharren in dieser Schräglage fiele nicht auf, und nach dem Film, nach dem Wiedereinschalten der Lichter, meinte der Zuschauer, ich wolle eben auch den Abspann nicht verpassen, wolle meinen Gedanken zum Film eben nachhängen, nicht gestört werden, die Augen geschlossen, den Mund schräg geöffnet; sei halt dem Film gänzlich verfallen, hätte mich ihm mit Inbrunst gewidmet, und müsse ihn nun, so wie sich das eben gehöre, erst einmal verarbeiten.

JAMES WATERS: 23.05.21 – On this day, I watched the new restoration of Chun gwong cha sit for the expressed purpose of hearing its final needle drop in a cinema setting. I remember driving with my Mum to see it, arriving 10 minutes late and in the wrong cinema.I wasn’t sure, upon arriving home, if the cinema setting benefitted the song in any way. The desire for the big screen when watching it at home was stronger than any feelings from the cinema itself. I only remember the before – rushing up the stairs in a way that makes me shudder when thinking about it – and after. It’s the type of running one does when they’re about to miss a train, its cinematic equivalent an exasperated self-deception that “the ads surely must still be playing”, only to resignedly sink into a cinema seat realising that 15 minutes have already gone by.

Then afterwards, there was the disappointment at not having The Turtles’ eponymous song ringing in my ears. After this point I made three strict rules for myself:

  • When watching a film for the first time, always watch it in the cinema
  • Don’t sit and watch a film whose first 10 minutes you’ve missed, it’s like being dragged from a runaway train
  • When watching something at home on a repeat viewing, don’t get up from the film

28.08.2021 – As of today, I haven’t followed these rules, and even when I have, the dividing line between a “cinematic” and “living” space is non-existent. But were they ever? Here are two photos where – given the time of day – the befores and afters of each film (watched for the first time and not in a cinema) felt unaffected by the same, relatively unchanged daylight. Or is it that the daylight felt unaffected by the film’s end? The screen, in these and many other cases, appeared darker than ever. 

(20.08, watching Das Mädchen und die Spinne by Ramon and Silvan Zürcher)
(26.08, watching One Plus One 2 by C.W. Winter and Anders Edström)

 

Glimpses at CHANTAL AKERMAN

PATRICK HOLZAPFEL: Stelle mir vor, obwohl ich das nicht kann, ich wäre Henri Dutilleux und würde eines Tages das Set von Chantal Akermans Trois strophes sur le nom de Sacher betreten. Sonia Wieder-Atherton, Cellistin und große Kennerin meines Werks hätte mich eingeladen, ich würde hingehen, obwohl ich die Stille lieber habe (im Kino oft zu wenig Platz zwischen den Zeilen, aber nicht bei Akerman, das gebe ich zu). 

Das Kino wäre mir ohnedies nicht fremd gewesen (kann das Kino jemals fremd sein?), ich hatte schließlich bereits die Musik zu L’Amour d’une femme von Jean Gremillon und kürzlich erst zu Maurice Pialats Sous le soleil de Satan komponiert. Ich hatte gehört, dass Akerman meine Musik durch den Bogen Sonias kennenlernte; es macht einen Unterschied, ob man Musik zuerst durch den Bogen hört oder von einer Platte.

Ich hätte Angst, dass der Film die falschen Töne spielen könnte; ein falscher Ton, das ist eine Frage zwischen Leben und Tod. Akerman, habe ich gehört, ist keine besondere Kennerin meiner Musik, irgendeiner Musik. Vielleicht gefällt mir das, ja es gefällt mir. Sonia sagte, dass es in meinen drei Strophen um die Suche nach den Instrumenten für das Leben gehe. Mit welchem Instrument man spielt, entscheidet vielleicht, ob man einen Ton trifft oder nicht. Das alles, sagt sie, entwickle sich in eine Explosion des Lebens. Vielleicht deshalb all die Farben an diesem Set, die Tänzer, die durch die Räume geisternden Sinne, die sich finden und wieder auflösen. Ein Licht, das ist auch ein Ton, würde ich denken.

Was ich an diesem Set vorgefunden hätte, wäre die Intimität meiner Musik. ein Raum am Abend, eine Frau, die sich zurückgezogen hat und mit der Musik geblieben ist. Sie verkörpert die unter allem schlummernde Suche und Verzweiflung. Im Bildhintergrund vollführen Nachbarn Schritte des Alltags, sie bügeln und leben und vergraben all das, was sie fühlen könnten. Das schöne an der Musik (und am Kino vielleicht): nicht alle können sie gleichzeitig hören, aber alle leben gleichzeitig. Die Musik ist immer da, aber wir können sie nicht immer hören.

Ich wäre also an dieses Set gegangen und hätte die Stille gefunden, die ich selbst komponiert habe. Bei Akerman spielt sich viel in der Nacht ab oder besser: in der Zeit nach den Tagen. Womöglich ist dann die Sehnsucht am größten oder die Möglichkeiten oder die Angst oder die Einsamkeit. Vielleicht ist es aber auch die Zeit, in der wir die Musik wirklich hören können (wenn wir nicht zu müde sind vom Tag). 

IVANA MILOŠHere’s a dance without partners, a reclamation of space and place, a redefinition of the fully marked, suggested, stipulated, and confined. It is called Saute ma ville, but it might as well be called break-this-place, chirp-without-measure, destroy-the-reduction or daisies-without-daisies, because you don’t need flowers to blow things up, but a scarf can be useful. On the other hand, flowers are brought into the minuscule kitchen Akerman inhabits in the film – in fact, they are the only object to enter it from the outside. Brought in at the very beginning in a whirlwind run up the stairs, they are also found in the heroine’s hand at the very end, reminiscent of bouquets handed to actresses after a star performance. These flowers, an emblem of the decorative, are another sign among many, a signifier without a body and, as such, something that invites destruction. But what is this passerine incantation that accompanies the blows dealt to the reduced existence of women? Mirthful and frenzied, Akerman’s chant fluctuates between laughter and sing-song, just like her movements, both levels together creating an orchestration of reveling and eruption. It is slapstick and tragicomedy, to be sure, but it is also a declaration: The opposite of functional needn’t be dysfunctional, for there are realms and choices to functionality just like there are to living. After all, the question remains: Is disappearance an explosion?

SIMON WIENER: There is something about D’Est which moves me profoundly, but I can’t pinpoint it. It feels as intimate as a film can possibly be, yet it is about vast landscapes, public spaces, anonymous faces. Maybe it is about being lost and lonely; or about resting strong and unfazed by destiny. Every image seems to weep. Every image is weeping, but without bemoaning itself, rather celebrating. Celebrating the tenaciousness of these trees amidst barren land, or the accidental but graceful interplay of lights during a rainy, sombre night. To weep, here, is to dance: to the wind, the light, the music.

SIMON PETRI: She will have to get up early to record the antagonistic blue that welcomes the underclass in the shivering hours of dawn. The first workers of the city form lines at bus stations to get to the factories, where circumstances of maintenance changed during these last years of historical tumult, but that doesn’t seem to improve a lot for the dawn’s crowd and the worst is yet to come. But that’s still more than a decade of a leap into the future. As for now, she doesn’t have to travel east, fear the frost and the burning eyes of the days’ loveless beginnings. As for now, she can have that juvenile, dreamy look – not a teenager anymore but still closer in spirit to the ingenious young girl who blew up a kitchen in a world too burdensome and uninspiring than a traveller of great discipline, stamina and political drive. As for now, she can forget about manners and self-imposed wakefulness, she can enjoy the caress, the food and the warm comfort of the Parisian living rooms. Dazed by satiety, she can slide into sleep. Maybe the sobering breeze between two apartments blows away the odour of pastry and perfume, so she can arrive neatly. Not that there would be any expectation, not that anything can break the deep kindness of old ladies – not even the recollection of the most harrowing evilness can shatter the adoration with which they look at her. As for now, she just has to listen. More or less. That will be good enough for a mitzvah.

RONNY GÜNL:

 

Eindrücke von La Chambre, Hotel Monterey, Là-Bas und Les rendez-vous d’AnnaBeschreibung eines Raumes:

Um was für ein Zimmer handelt es sich? Ein Hotelzimmer? Eine Wohnung? Ein Zugabteil? Wem gehört das Zimmer? Scheint es nicht bewohnt?

Was befindet sich im Raum? Wo ist das Bett? Wie viele Kissen? Gibt es ein Telefon? Gibt es ein Radio? Einen Fernseher? Hängen Bilder an der Wand? Oder Spiegel? Welche Farbe hat die Wand? Trägt sie eine Tapete? Wie gestaltet sich deren Muster? Wie ist der Boden beschaffen? Liegt ein Teppich aus? Säumen Gegenstände den Boden? Bücher? Zeitschriften? Ist es aufgeräumt?

Gibt es ein Bad? Eine Küche? Sind sie gefliest? Gibt es einen Tisch? Steht Essen auf ihm?

Ist es still? Weht der Wind herein? Hängt Rauch in der Luft?

Wo ist die Tür? Ist sie verschlossen? Ist sie geöffnet? Aus Holz? Ist sie alt? Befindet sich ein Schild an der Tür? Wo ist das Fenster? Ist ein Vorhang davor? Eine Gardine? Eine Jalousie? Lässt es sich öffnen? Wo ist der Lichtschalter?

Ist es Nacht? Oder Tag? In welchem Stockwerk befindet sich der Raum? Und in welcher Stadt? Wie klingt die Straße? Gibt es Nachbarn? Was tun sie? Strahlt Licht von außen herein? Die Sonne? Oder die Reklame? Welche Farbe hat es? Wie wirkt die Umgebung? Belebt oder verlassen? Welcher Tag ist heute? Wie is das Wetter? Sind Flugzeuge am Himmel zusehen? Kann man das Meer riechen?

Was ist nicht zu sehen? Gibt es einen Ausgang? Gehen oder bleiben? Wer lebt hier?

DAVID PERRIN: Jene Tage, an denen das Kino noch geholfen hat; als Mittel des Sich-Sammelns, des freien Durchatmens, des Augenaufgehens. Jene Filme, die einem den Appetit für die Welt wiedererweckt haben, nach denen man aus dem Kino trat und einfach nur geradeaus gehen wollte, oder mit der Straßenbahn zu einer Endstation fahren, in einer fremden Gegend der Stadt. Zum Beispiel, nachdem ich zum ersten Mal News from Home von Chantal Akerman sah und nur noch durch die Straßen gehen wollte, mit U-Bahnen und Bussen fahren, auf Bahnhofsgleisen und Haltestellen herumlungern bis spät in der Nacht, so lange bis ich mich in einen Niemand verwandelt hatte. (Was mir natürlich nie richtig gelungen ist.) Die ruhigen, langen Fahrten durch die Stadt New York, die unendlich langen Einstellungen, die auf den U-Bahnen und deren Stationen aufgenommen wurden sowie die im Morgengrauen menschenleeren Straßen in Downtown Manhattan – durch diese Bilder gewann ich eine Art Bewegungsfreiheit, die ich im Kino bisher kaum erlebt hatte. Es war, als ob die Stadt sich endlich zu einem Rhythmus verlangsamt hatte, in dem ich mich selber bewegen konnte, in dem Körper und Gefühl eins wurden. Das hatte sicher auch damit zu tun, dass ich zu der Zeit, als ich den Film sah, auch in New York lebte und in dieser übergroßen Reklame-Stadt nicht so richtig Fuß fassen konnte. Aber nach dem Erlebnis dieses Films, als ich abends aus dem Kino auf der 5th Avenue trat, rückte mir zugleich näher und ferner bis sie sich endlich zu einer tatsächlichen Weltstadt ausdehnte, einen Ort, wo man leben konnte.

Und dann gab es auch diesen anderen atemschöpfenden Film von Akerman, dessen Namen, als ich ihn zum ersten Mal hörte, sofort die Sehnsucht auslöste, am Schauplatz des Films sein zu wollen: Hotel Monterey. Das Porträt eines heruntergekommenen Hotels auf der Upper West Side in Manhattan und den einsamen, zumeist greisenhaften Bewohnern dort, vom Keller bis zum Dachboden, ein Film ohne Worte, Dialog oder Handeln. Oder doch: die Räume und deren Linien und Farben waren das Handeln; die leeren Flure, die Schlaf-, und Badezimmer, die Aufzüge verwandelten sich, unter den Blicken und sanften Schwenkungen der Kamera, in Orte der Kontemplation, zu Innenräumen der Einsamkeit. So sind sie seit den Bildern des Malers Edward Hopper noch nie erschienen. Und am Ende des Films, als die Kamera auf den Dachboden des Hotels die Skyline der Stadt im Morgenlicht aufnimmt, hatte ich das Gefühl, trotz des einen Schauplatzes, auf eine Weltreise gewesen zu sein.

Solche Kinoerlebnisse scheinen jetzt immer seltener zu werden (ob es den anderen auch so geht?), und das nicht nur, weil die Kinos mehr als ein halbes Jahr geschlossen waren. Die Bilder, die heute auf der Leinwand zu finden sind, haben, für mich jedenfalls, nichts Entdeckerisches an sich; sie sind einfach da, im Vorhinein fertig und festgelegt. Die Welt starrt einen einfach blöd an, statt zu erscheinen. Daher sind die Filme Akermans, und nicht nur die zwei, die ich oben erwähnt habe, wie ein zusätzliches Licht oder Luft, die einem durch das Leben wehen und es aufleuchten lassen. So weiterleuchten!

ANDREW CHRISTOPHER GREEN: The first film I saw by Chantal Akerman was, of course, Jeanne Dielman, 23, quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles. I was 23 then, and it was the first ambitious European film I’d ever seen. I was struck by how evasive it was, how excluded I felt from it. It seemed like there were scenes missing, or as if it were a sequel to a film that had established the characters with whom I should have already been familiar, and I remember thinking the subtitles must have been mistranslated by a poet taking way too much license; the few times the characters spoke with one another the dialogue was far too intense, like everything stored up in the silence between came rupturing out with a violent force of repression. I thought there must be something European about this ambiguity and non-disclosure. I knew I’d be moving to Germany in a few months and this excited me, to get a taste of the world I’d become acquainted with.

It took a good four years for the experience of that film to germinate inside me. I was studying contemporary art and slowly growing disillusioned with it, and it’s as though without my knowing it, the little gaps and intensities I saw in Akerman’s film were becoming the antidote to the shortcomings of my field, which had resigned itself from all the little mysteries that make her works shimmer. At first, I thought myself capable of resolving this discrepancy in my work, but the more evenings I spent with her and then Straub-Huillet and Ford and Ozu, the more I felt myself compelled to take them seriously, until the gap had grown so wide that I looked behind and saw I could never go back. Then it was as though one day a door between my apartment and the world outside silently clasped behind me and I resolved to myself: “Now I’ll just watch films, now I will finally do nothing but just watch films.” And I haven’t stopped since. Every night I spend my time behind a digital projector looking for the little gaps Akerman showed and hid from me for the first time in that film I saw now more than seven years ago, which, though once confusing, now illuminate the entry-points to the truth-content of the medium itself. And my appreciation of her work has grown exponentially as I witnessed her recreate such feats in not just so-called artistic films but, as if summoning the spirits of the Hawks’ and Langs’ and Walshes’ of bygone times, through a spectrum of romantic comedies, musicals, tragedies, documentaries, melodramas, and others forms I’d never have taken seriously on account of their beauty lying so dormant and opaque beneath a flashy surface we tend to only ever see ourselves reflected in.

JAMES WATERS: I’ve kept a document containing all the retrospectives of Chantal Akerman’s work held since her death. The number is approximately 257, including the repeats at the Cinémathèque française in Paris, CINEMATEK in Brussels, ICA in London and the TIFF Bell Lightbox in Toronto. Each is more definitive than the last, with a new kind of selling point. For the Cinémathèque française, in 2018, it was that Hangin Out Yonkers – long thought to be lost – had been discovered and digitized. A friend told me that this wasn’t the first showing of the film, as the previous retrospective at La Cinémathèque française screened a 35mm print in 2013, with Akerman present.

I have another document of all the Chantal Akerman retrospectives dating from May 1st, 1968 to October 1st, 2015. I don’t have an exact number, but it’s less than 200. There have been more of them in the past 5 ½ years than in the 47 – prior to 2015 – Akerman spent thinking seriously about and, henceforth, practicing filmmaking.

I ask Chantal what she thinks of this. Here’s the response I heard:

“Nous avons suivi Pina Bausch et ses danseurs pendant cinq semaines, de Wuppertal à Milan, de Milan à Venise, de Venise à Avignon. J’étais directement frapper au cœur par ces longues pièces, qui se mélange tous dans la tête. Il est le sentiment que les images que nous avons ramenées en transmettent peu, et la trahit souvent.”

“We have been following Pina Bausch and her dance company for the last five weeks, from Wuppertal to Milan, Milan to Venice and Venice to Avignon. I was deeply touched by her lengthy performances. I have the feeling, however, that the images we’ve brought back don’t convey their essence, and often betray it.”

The programmers of these retrospectives also heard this. One in Buenos Aires wrote to me – after having made my documentation public – of the above sentences and how they came to her in a dream. When she heard them prior to the dream, there was nothing remarkable about them. Even in the dream, there still wasn’t anything overtly remarkable about these words, but she woke up in a cold sweat regardless, as one does from a dream in which one trip’s over and, in waking, opens one’s eyes before this dreamed moment of impact. By the time she had this dream, it was already 2017.

Images and quotation taken from Un Jour Pina à Demandé

SEBASTIAN BOBIK: “Today is Saturday and I’m going to make a film about laziness”. With this sentence Chantal Akerman’s Portrait d’une Paresseuse begins. It’s the first film by Akerman I saw. I suppose that is a rather unusual start into her filmography. It was also the first time I saw her image, since she plays herself in this film. The opening sentence already tells us what the film will be: Akerman will make a film about laziness. She is still in bed. She looks as if she doesn’t want to get up. “In order to make cinema, one must get out of bed“ she says. And yet she stays in bed and the film is made. I understand that she couldn’t have made the entire film in bed: organizing, setting up the shot, editing… I doubt all of these steps were done from bed. Yet I enjoy this idea. A film made in bed. Of course, she doesn’t remain in bed. We see glimpses of a morning routine. She takes vitamins. We see several shots of her partner Sonia Wieder-Atherton practicing on the cello, while Chantal Akerman watches her, or just listens to her in a different room. The final 2 minutes of the film Akerman smokes a cigarette. We watch her in a close-up. The next time I saw Chantal Akerman was also in bed. I watched her film La Chambre, which pans 360 degrees through a room several times. For a brief moment, she is again in bed, looking at us. Years later I saw Je Tu Il Elle, in which suddenly a similar image struck me once again.

ANNA BABOS: 

As you set out for Ithaka

hope your road is a long one,

full of adventure, full of discovery.

Laistrygonians, Cyclops,

angry Poseidon—don’t be afraid of them:

you’ll never find things like that on your way

as long as you keep your thoughts raised high,

as long as a rare excitement

stirs your spirit and your body.

Laistrygonians, Cyclops,

wild Poseidon—you won’t encounter them

unless you bring them along inside your soul,

unless your soul sets them up in front of you.

 

Hope your road is a long one.

May there be many summer mornings when,

with what pleasure, what joy,

you enter harbors you’re seeing for the first time;

may you stop at Phoenician trading stations

to buy fine things,

mother of pearl and coral, amber and ebony,

sensual perfume of every kind—

as many sensual perfumes as you can;

and may you visit many Egyptian cities

to learn and go on learning from their scholars.

 

Keep Ithaka always in your mind.

Arriving there is what you’re destined for.

But don’t hurry the journey at all.

Better if it lasts for years,

so you’re old by the time you reach the island,

wealthy with all you’ve gained on the way,

not expecting Ithaka to make you rich.

 

Ithaka gave you the marvelous journey.

Without her you wouldn’t have set out.

She has nothing left to give you now.

 

And if you find her poor, Ithaka won’t have fooled you.

Wise as you will have become, so full of experience,

you’ll have understood by then what these Ithakas mean.

/C.P. Cavafy: Ithaka, translated by Edmund Keeley/

Hanezawa Garden

Text: C.W. Winter, 2015

Roughly thirty-one and half minutes into Vittorio De Sica’s Umberto D. (1952), a dispirited pensioner, finding himself down to his last lire against a backdrop of economic austerity, calls an ambulance and feigns illness so that he might briefly stay in a hospital in order to get a more comfortable bed, even the temporary succor of nurses, and three good meals a day. In the dominant culture of the Western narrative cinema of the time, following such a moment, a director would then be expected to cut to something like the arrival of the ambulance, to the pensioner already in the ambulance, or to the pensioner already at the hospital—dramatic action begetting dramatic action in an unbroken chain.

De Sica, however, disrupts these defaults. He makes us wait. He leaves us there in the boarding house passing time[1] in real time awaiting the paramedics‘ arrival from the nearby hospital. In a sequence running nearly eight and half minutes in total, we spend the middle four minutes eighteen seconds in dramaturgical suspension. The chain of dramatic action is broken. Nothing happens that advances a plot. We just wait. Listening to and seeing the type of span that Deleuze refers to when he says that the „image no longer has space and movement as its primary characteristics but topology and time.“[2] It was in this moment in Western narrative cinema, in this waiting for an ambulance, that lived time came untethered from text and emerged into the foreground.

From our current vantage point, with a legacy of image makers ranging from James Benning to Andy Warhol to Tony Conrad to Jean-Marie Straub & Danièle Huillet or to Chantal Akerman, among others…or more recently from Pedro Costa to Wang Bing to Heinz Emigholz to Jean-Claude Rousseau to Sharon Lockhart or to Lav Diaz, among others…a dramatic suspension of four minutes eighteen seconds might seem like an insignificant gesture. And those in the West would later learn that Yasujiro Ozu out in Japan had already been up to such dramatic suspensions for quite a while. However, given the Western cinema of the time, De Sica’s was a startling move.

As this passage from Umberto D. begins, we see an image of a young chambermaid. She has been awakened by the pensioner’s phone call, and, as she lies in her bed, she stares upward through the atrium ceiling of the entryway where she sleeps. From her point of view, we see a glass roof littered with old wet leaves clumped in black patches partially blocking out the soft morning light.

Sixty-two images into Anders Edström’s Hanezawa Garden, we find a similar image. One of five in a sequence. A picture of old dead pine needles in large black clumps seen through a glass atrium ceiling. A kind of inadvertent phagosome from Umberto D. And through this passage, one can begin to discover a sense of duration and resistance that is so central to Edström’s project. A patience. A waiting. A refusal of the speed of the dominant economy.

Deleuze, in his writings on cinema, often referred to Pure Optical Situations. Breaks in the dramaturgical chain. Pauses in the action. Or temporary steppings out of dramatic action. He saw these dramaturgical pauses as the birth of a modern cinema with Ozu as progenitor. A declaration of the latent power of the longue durée, on the one hand urgently contemporary and on the other echoing the Kant of 1754 who declared that it is no longer time that depends upon movement, but the opposite.

We can trace a through-line of such Pure Optical Situations from Ozu through Italian Neo-Realism into Antonioni, Minimalism, Structuralism and various conceptualisms, and on forward to cinematic new waves emerging from Iran to Taiwan to Romania to the Philippines and elsewhere.

But what does it mean when someone like Edström, surely the protagonist in Hanezawa Garden, doesn’t simply offer us a brief break from Aristotelian conflict/resolution, a momentary pause, a dramaturgical lapse…but instead makes a whole of a work—in its fixed, multi-year gaze upon a single geographic point—that is a Pure Optical Situation, a sustained act of looking, an exercise not of an agent but of a seer?[3] Gone are Deleuze’s Small Form and Large Form of narrative. And in their place there arises a situation-description, both a document and a performance. In this case, a POV of an individual and his frequent visits to a garden just down the road from his home in Tokyo—a garden that would eventually be uprooted, erased, and monetized by the contingent forces of development.

When thinking of contingency, we often think in terms of the Event. Of unforeseen occurrences of broad scale and impact. 9/11. The 2008 Crisis. Google. And so on. But contingent materials and forces are at work across all dimensions: from the massive, to the elementary, to the human scale. A practice like Edström’s both describes and affirms the contingency of our everyday at an everyday scope. Not through a sense of openness or improv, but through limitation. A limitation of technics. Of options. Of parameters. And, in the case of Hanezawa Garden, of geography. Here, we see the unfolding of a resolute focus on a single place. A site whose ultimate undoing was unforeseen. This isn’t a document of openness or chance; it’s a document of a closing down, of the contingent, of a befalling.[4]

And in thinking of such befallings, of an artist whose site disintegrates before him, one could think of superficial parallels to Pedro Costa’s long-term documentation of the Fontaínhas quarter in Lisbon. And while a strength of that work is its deeply empathetic focus on the ever-diminishing agency of that neighborhood’s inhabitants, a somewhat Straubian political description of a people who would otherwise not be seen, Hanezawa Garden, with its smaller scope and narrow-gauged volatility, with its quieter equanimity, brings us closer to something like a Latourian notion of perception—that of the human as sensitive instrument. Of detection reinforced by repetition, revisitation, and looping back. Describing and re-describing a location, orientation, and effects. „When the dictionary defines sensitive as ‚quick to detect or respond to slight changes, signals, or influences‘, this adjective applies to the anthropos.“[5] Just as it applies to Hanezawa Garden, to the whole of Edström’s now twenty-nine-year practice, and to his perpetual examination of what is and isn’t worthy of being a photograph.

Edström began taking photographs in 1986. And in looking at his work from that early period, one finds it is largely indistinguishable from work he made in 1996, 2006, and now.[6] He has forged an uncompromisingly concise set of principles. A disciplined asceticism. And, over the last three decades, there are few other photographic bodies of work that have been more directly and indirectly imitated. Aspects of what now we take for granted as photography-generally can be shown to trace back to work he began in the 1980’s.

As a result of his long-term consistency, I tend to think of his images as the byproducts of duration. Hanezawa Garden is now a subset of that duration, a period of nine years, evidence of a straightforward and unpoetic approach, a resistance to allure and to commodity, an insistent exercise in plain speaking, a description of lived time emerging into the foreground.

[1] And in this, one could be reminded of Michel Butor’s Passing Time (1956), in which surplus descriptions of presentness accumulate to render an amplified banality, in some ways echoing his Russian Formalist predecessors.

[2] Deleuze, Gilles. Cinema 2: The Time Image. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota, 1986.

[3] And from this, I’m reminded of the following passage: „The pleasure and astonishment of looking are unnegotiable. Nothing the world can do to them will make them go away. And yes, I agree, the world does plenty to try. Pleasure and astonishment seem to me qualities that the world around us, most of the time, is conspiring to get rid of…By which I mean the full range of human possibilities and sympathies that make up the human, as far as I’m concerned. Recognitions and sympathies, but also losses and horrors and failures of understanding. Everything the present ecstasy of „information“ wants us to transfer to trash…We are accustomed from a young age to living in a constant flow of visual imagery. The imagery is designed not to be looked at closely or with sustained attention…So make time for the opportunity for sustained attention, proposing that visual images carry within them the possibility of genuine difficulty, genuine depth, genuine resistance—a way of life in which the image-life of power could at once be derided or spoken back to.“ — Retort Afflicted Powers: Capital and Spectacle in a New Age of War. London: Verso, 2005.

[4] „Unlike the etymology of ‚chance‘ and ‚aleatory‘, which relate to ‚falling’—cadentia, alea, the fall of a dice, the eventuality of one of a number of possible outcomes (the faces of a die)—’contingency‘ comes from contingere, meaning ‚to befall’—it is an event that happens to us, that comes from outside, that simply „strikes“ without any possible prevision.“ — Mackay, Robin. The Medium of Contingency. Falmouth, U.K.: Urbanomic, 2011.

[5] Latour, Bruno. „The Anthropocene and the Destruction of the Image of the Globe“ Lecture, The University of Edinburgh, February 25, 2013.

[6] …which is somehow in a similar spirit to that of Mark E. Smith of The Fall, who, in 1977, penned the lyrics: „This is the three R’s, the three R’s: repetition, repetition, repetition.“ [i][ii] A resistance to the economics of the perpetually new. And while Smith has released thirty studio albums and nearly one hundred releases total over the last thirty-nine years, and while consistently brilliant threads have persisted in this work, his output, with its varied array, never fully adhered to the model of the three R’s. By this one specific standard, Edström could perhaps be seen as more Smith than Smith.
i. This footnote itself is a repetition, lifted from the text „The End of Seeing“, written for and never published by Ravelin Magazine.
ii. In the case of Hanezawa Garden, this isn’t a completist or limit point exercise as we might find from Borges‘ fictional Pierre Menard, who re-writes Cervantes‘ Don Quixote as-is, word for word. [†] Nor like Rodney Graham’s 39 billion-year Parsifal. Nor like Tony Conrad’s Yellow Movies (1972-1973), high water marks of the longue durée, that span, uninterrupted, for longer than any viewer could consume in any single lifetime. Hanezawa Garden, like most of my favorite representations of duration is a description, not a transcription, of lived time. It is an act of implying. A mutual understanding with a viewer of the power of fragments to imply a whole, not unlike the implications of time beyond ourselves that we might extract from sources such as Hindustani drones, much early Persian classical music, or the works of people like Jon Gibson, C.C. Hennix, Folke Rabe, Michael Snow, Henry Flynt, Earth, or Phill Niblock, among others.

. Borges, Jorge Luis. „Pierre Menard, Autor Del Quijote.“ Sur, May 1939.

The Anchorage: The Wind in the Trees

Text: David Perrin

Finally, a film that does not feel like a weight on your chest; that does not set out to pound you back into your seat in an attempt to coerce you into believing that the world beyond the screen has ceased to exist, that it has somehow miraculously folded itself up like a three-dimensional board game and vanished into thin air. Nowadays (or perhaps it has always been like this), it seems like most films are like that: little burdensome weights that press all the air out of you, leaving you empty and stumbling around in the dark with nothing to see and nothing to hear, and you wonder how or why you ever decided to dedicate the hours and the days of your life to cinema. As one critic turned filmmaker once wrote regarding a particularly dreadful moviegoing experience: “There was nothing to see; the whole screen was full of it.”

The Anchorage by C.W. Winter and Anders Edström is not such a film. Here, the world soothingly drapes itself around you like a delicate piece of silk, a film of such ostensible lightness, you fear that a gentle gust of wind would be enough to blow it away off the screen. So, what is there to see? Three days at the end of October in the life of a 69-year-old woman named Ulla, living alone in a house in the woods in the Stockholm Archipelago; the slow, thoughtful rhythm of her movements as she cuts off the branches of a felled tree with a chainsaw; as she disentangles the fish caught in a net gleaming in the afternoon sun, the incessant wind wrapping the net around her like a transparent cape or cocoon; the gradual opening up of the day as the light begins to slowly break over the forest terrain, the colors of the dawn blending seamlessly with the color of her pink robe, while she makes her way towards the shore, where she disrobes and slips naked into the cold water as if it too were her natural element. You see her from afar standing on a pier, her back to the camera as she watches and waves towards a ferry carrying two of her friends pushing offshore, the boat slowly moving out of the frame and above her a slate of grey sky imminent with rain and below her the waves of displaced water lapping against the pier. Most of all, though, you can see and hear the wind blowing through the landscape, can see and hear the beauty of the wind rustling the branches of the birch and pine trees (as Griffith once so beautifully defined cinema); can see and hear how it breathes in the tall grass and brush of the forest, how it makes a red swing sway slightly in the early evening gloom, how it rushes across the pacific surface of the sea, how it defines and gives shape to this weathered landscape dotted with lone figures sunk in the everydayness of things.

Brief diary entries punctuate each day, jotted down scraps detailing the daily minutiae, the throw-away thoughts and observations that run through Ulla’s head, which when added together make up the surface of her life: recurring dreams of snowfall, the singing of the larks late into the season, the arrival and departure of friends, plans for dinner, the solitude and the weather. The quiet drift of her days is subtlety disrupted by the arrival of a stranger, presumably a hunter, whose boat is anchored just offshore from where she goes for her morning swims. But this ‘plot shift’ occurs at such a low frequency, that it barely registers as an event. The apparent intruder in the terrain is reduced to a faceless figure trudging through the woods at night, a specter glimpsed briefly through a window, his only discernible feature being the yellow of his safety jacket, which shines forth out of the darkness of the forest.

And what else? The feeling of the landscape as a clearly defined space – a result of the camera positioned as a faraway, unintrusive observer, often framing Ulla in full-body shots as she moves through the land or her home. This distance between camera and subject becomes a kind of breathing ground, a space to lean into from your seat that allows you the simple, yet incomparable joy of looking and listening: see the play of sunlight upon the branches of the birch trees as she walk through the forest, a single red spot amidst all that green and grey; hear the creak of the front door of the house as it is gently pushed shut by an afternoon breeze, while the larks call out to each other from across the tree tops and somewhere off the water churns in the wind.

What else? A sense of waiting and of the world rushing in, a sense that this is all there is and nothing else. And afterwards you imagine the feel of the warm wind in your face, brushing against your temples like a tender caress and you ask yourself: is that a storm coming or is it merely the arrival of a new season?

Trying to get the table: A dialogue with C.W. Winter and Anders Edström

Interview: Patrick Holzapfel

The Works and Days (of Tayoko Shiojiri in the Shiotani Basin) by C.W. Winter and Anders Edström is an outstanding film because of how it works with life, people, nature, narration, sound… I am very happy to be able to talk to the filmmakers about the relation of life and cinema, a difficult relationship as we know, a troublesome, maybe even a failed one. In your film we can find certain elements related to what is normally called realism and then there are some elements that completely abolish that. It reminds me a lot about this notion that there is no true realism without mysticism. So, I have to begin with a rather big question but I feel we need to get it out of the way: How would you describe the relation between what you see in front of you and the image you want to make of it? Would you say that you collect an image, capture something, cut something out?

A.E.: For me as a photographer, I think I look at the world in a rectangular frame and I try to put things in there. I don’t really understand what I’m after, it’s very intuitive. It’s about something that makes it look pleasing for me. But of course, it’s also about collecting many of those images and putting them next to each other. It’s the same in film as in still photography. When you put images next to each other you don’t know what is coming next. It creates an effect for us when we look at it. It’s about some kind of feeling.

C.W: Our images aren’t created as in the dominant mode of filmmaking in which the primary role of the director is to be an illustrator illustrating a predetermined script. We are not working with a script. We have a vague outline, so that we have latitude to use the camera and the microphone as tools and go out into whatever field we have decided upon and use those tools to make things. So, that’s what we are waking up to do every morning with minimal preparation. At least in advance, we try to get a feeling for the land and a sense for the people and we fall, as much as we can, into the rhythm of the people we are working with, so that scenes can be written in the morning or sometimes the night before. This allows us to react with a certain level of knowability because we spend so much time, many years, familiarizing ourselves with the people. But we are not relying entirely on intuition. Daniel Kahneman has perhaps demonstrated that intuition is terribly unreliable and humans aren’t so good at it. The more intelligent one is, often the more vulnerable to intuitive error one can be because one is less likely to believe himself mistaken. So we can’t fully rely on intuition even if much of what we do is in the moment. We know that our intuition will largely fail, so we need to have enough of a volume of material to work with. So we work and work. We are looking for something that somehow feels other or strange in the plainest way possible.

A.E.: It’s not only about trying to get the most pleasing images at that moment. A lot of times we look at something, it can be anything, it can be a table, and we film it from many different angles…we try to get the table. And afterwards we can see how we can combine the images of the table.

C.W.: I think one of the most broken parts of film discourse is the conversation around cinematography. The latitude so many critics give themselves to be inexpert on the subject of photography is such that we usually only read about three types of cinematography: good, bad or breathtaking. Usually those three categories are running along an axis of classical beauty. It’s a curve that describes some path of agreement about an image, such that every man, woman, and child can agree that image A is indeed beautiful. In such a case, the question would be: ‚if consensus is the result, then what has the artist contributed?‘ And the answer in most of those occasions would be: close to nothing. What we are trying to do when we make an image is to find some sort of dissensus or some sort of friction or some sort of something that lacks a complete satisfaction. Because to be not fully satisfied is to want more and to have to think more and to not simply be a passive person but to be an active person who is being engaged. We try to think about why an image is made and how it is constructed. What are the frictions of satisfaction and dissatisfaction we can find in these images? It’s also intentionally bringing in failure. And being content with a certain level of being underestimated.

Yes, I can very much understand that. In your film there is a focus on work, not only in the title but I think your film reflects you as filmmakers. I can feel that the shots are not only representing a reality of the image but also the reality of those that make it. Your are not trying to be invisible. I wonder how the actual daily work then looks. In a more Classical scenario you would maybe have a 8 hour day or a 10 hour day but to me it sounds as if your approach asks you to always be working, always be aware. So I guess my question is: where is the not-work if the film is the work?

C.W.: Well, I’ve tried to figure that out…

A.E.: When we spend this time together during the film we keep waking each other up because all of a sudden something is happening or the light is changing. You never know. We are at the place, and there are always unexpected images popping up.

C.W.: People sometimes innocently and understandably ask if it is fun to make a film. I assure you there is no fun part.

A.E.: I think it is fun…

C.W.: Not for me. The fun part is maybe travelling to a festival and sitting together there and having a nice coffee…

A.E.: It’s also fun when we find that image or that light…

C.W.: I don’t know if I would use the word fun for that, but later it’s satisfying; it’s rewarding. We are pushing ourselves as hard as we can when we’re there. For this film we gave ourselves windows of a certain amount of time, and during those weeks we would sleep as little as we could physically handle. This is our third film in a row with a lead character who is around the age of 70 which presents the disadvantage that they sleep less. But we are not only filming people, this is also a geographic film. We have to be there for what the land is doing and how it’s behaving. That’s never stopping. There might be some non-work when it comes to the people but not when it comes to the land.

A.E.: Each time we sleep we have the feeling of missing something.

C.W.: Yes. It’s a physical work. You can only manage such a film by acquiring an increased fitness or adaptations or evolutions or resourcefulness. You give yourself this big thing to get across and then you have to get across it.

A.E.: Often we would just go out and drive somewhere and the decide to film there. We don’t even know if it is interesting to film there and after a while you get into it and then we go on and on and on. The people that are with us must sometimes think: why aren’t we done with filming this road. Sure, it could be enough, but we want to suck out the last drop of whatever we are filming.

Actually your approach to filmmaking reminds me a bit about Francis Ponge. This concentration on objects, on details, to go into detail, to keep it simple but also let it grow to an immense scale. I think your film is a very small and a very huge film at the same time. An important aspect in this is time, I think. I wonder how you work with time? I am asking this because your film does something to me, and maybe this is a surprise to you since it’s a very different filmmaker, that reminds me of Jacques Tati. That is, I go out into the world and see differently, it changes my perception of things, of life, of time.

C.W.: Tati is going out and thinking deeply about the folly or the failures of man made objects among other things, and I think it’s interesting to compare our approach since we also look at objects obsessively, if for different purposes. In our case it’s primarily a sense of when we first encounter something that it’s easy to be attracted by elements of it that are too easily interesting. We want to work through those bits and do away with those to arrive at better things that maybe take more time to get at.

A.E.: You have to dig deep in order to discover the more interesting elements. You have to keep working through solutions until you arrive at the plain ones.

C.W.: How can it be both other and plain at the same time? It’s a process of boiling.

And what about time?

C.W.: We shot our first film in 2006, The Anchorage. At the time there was still quite a lot to be done and said around the idea of slowness and so on. We have had an ongoing relationship with 1960s conceptualism and minimal music, and, out of a critical stance we had towards the larger postmodern project, we felt we wanted to revive something of what we loved about modernism. But when we started this project we felt that this exploration of slowness didn’t interest us much anymore. Yet, we had thought a lot about time, so we made a lateral move to duration and just kept on thinking about that. It’s a conversation that for most cinephiles starts with Deleuze and then ends with Bergson. But we think there is a more interesting conversation that you rarely hear about, not just in cinema but even in philosophy. It’s around some 19th century French philosophers who were thinking about duration before Bergson. Albert Lemoine and Félix Ravaisson, both of whom were talking about habit and the subject of habit. Habit as something that is built up over time inside a body as a sort of muscle memory and as a sort of performance that overtakes will and consciousness. When we look at farmers and people doing physical labour, so much of what they are doing is the duration of habit. It’s a habit that does not only come from their own life span of doing a skill but habit that was handed down across 11500 years of farming. This brings us to the Hesiod poem Works and Days and this idea of farmers
spending time in their geography. With Tayoko you see these kind of habits. When we think about someone like Bresson who would need up to 70 takes to get an actor to turn a doorknob with flat effect, we don’t need those 70 takes, because we are looking at actions that are trained by real labour, real exigencies. So, they are ready to go on take one.

There is also an idea in your film relating to time lost, the lost time of the village, there is an element of something that doesn’t exist like this anymore or at least not as much. Watching your film and also because you mentioned your troubles with not sleeping, I feel very strongly the things we can’t see. There are things that are lost to the film. Do you agree? Could this also have to do with you, even if it’s your family, being a foreigner at this place. I mean, is there a certain distance to the people, to the culture you feel in your film?

C.W.: I think in this case it has more to do with our concerns about exposition. We want to use fiction in another way than the dominant screenwriting manuals suggest. And discard the idea that what you do with the first act of a film is expository. We try to defer or just completely do away with exposition so that the relationship between the people isn’t made clear. This way the viewer is forced into some kind of other space and is left to figure things out but also to not figure things out. There is mystery left, there are puzzles left. At the end of the day our favourite films are puzzles that we have to put together.

A.E.: Concerning the distance in the images…you asked that right?

Yes, it was many questions at once.

A.E.: Yes, we like some kind of distance and we don’t always have to feel that it’s a person standing there looking at things. We try to avoid this guided way of looking as well as we can. Of course, when we choose our framing, we choose what we think works but we like a certain distance to what we film so that the viewer has the freedom to scan elsewhere.

C.W.. While we could see how someone might mistake this sort of framing as a lack of intimacy or social proximity between us and the characters — as we’ve heard one person grumble — this, of course, would be a misreading of the film. We spent 27 weeks living in the house with our actors after a combined 34 years of knowing them. With a shot, we are there. In a room. With people we know very well. So the idea that a camera standing 9 feet away from a person would necessarily be less intimate than a camera standing 3 feet away would be an error in sense making. That would be similar to declaring the whole of the oeuvre of Vilhelm Hammershøi or Bonnard or Zhang Lu or Wang E as socially detached. We would propose that that would be an unserious observation to make. What we are interested in are simply pictures that are not anthropocentric. It’s a film that is as much about the non-human as the human. So, if a person appears in a scale that is smaller than what cinematic expectation might lead one to yearn for, that doesn’t mean we are further away socially. To the contrary, we are giving you more information about them, not less. For example, you might discover the repair that’s been done on the door. Or the off-brand laptop. Or the wear on a cushion. To us, an insistence on these kinds of images proposes a different sort of generosity, as it offers other considerations to look at and think about and wonder upon. Or furthermore, in the specificity of the framings, one might notice something about images themselves. Or perhaps something about local decorum. We shouldn‘t think that that would be remarkable enough to have to mention, but here we are. For us, film criticism isn’t Read-only; it’s Read-write.

A.E.: The people are part of that rectangle I talked about. The objects tell a lot about the people who are in the image. This is my family and I’ve been photographing them since the first time I was there. I told them from the beginning that if I take pictures, don’t change anything; just be as you are; don’t react to my camera. They got used to that ,and they learned it. So, when we started filming we just kept doing the same.

C.W.: Yet, there was one moment when that broke down. It’s true what Anders said and his family are such good collaborators with the still photography. But for some reason, I think the weight of this being a movie upped the tension a little bit. So in the first week of shooting we began to film family dinners which previously had been these sort of happy affairs with a good amount of drinking. But when we filmed them, they were so stiff. We couldn’t get them to be how they were. We couldn’t get them to deliver the lines as we wanted…the fiction was breaking down.

A.E.: That also has to do with the fact that we were four people and they didn’t know everybody.

C.W.: Exactly. It’s completely understandable. One of the big reenactments for us is the funeral day. Everybody was there with their black clothes, and we knew it was the last night we could have everyone together, and I was concerned that we might end up having another stiff dinner we wouldn’t be able to use in the film. And I saw this picture on my computer, just randomly, it was Jerry Lewis during the making of The Day the Clown Cried. It shows him looking through the camera in his clown make-up. And it seemed that that was what we needed in this film, we needed a clown. We volunteered ourselves. As it was recently forbidden to smoke in the house, we had to ask for permission to smoke there for the film, and they said ok. So we knew there would be smoking. Then we made sure we had whiskey and sake, and we started the dinner with a shot with everyone. And then Anders, our cast member Hiroharu, and I started to get ourselves quite drunk and other people started heartily drinking as well…all the stiffness melted away. You can see that the scene ends with me passed out on the floor while the camera is still rolling. The movie is just ghost riding. It’s a good reminder of this tension between the theoretical and the visceral. Theory has its limits, and it can only take you so far. Sometimes it’s important to remember that stupidity is a vital tool.