Notes on a shot from La folie Almayer by Chantal Akerman

La Folie Almayer 2la folie almayer 1

“Through this taxonomic organization, Baillie suggests that cinema evolved out of consciousness and over time assumed forms increasingly distant from the deep self. In presenting these cinematic modes in reverse chronology, Baillie suggests that the cinema’s original and true nature is as a document of consciousness. – R. Bruce Elder on Bruce Baillie’s Quick Billy


It begins with a look. One can hear the swirls, time distended in the water. It’s the sound of an eye that searches – Akerman’s – set on distinguishing “right” from “correct”. The boat arrives at a destination, but this isn’t what’s seen, at least not onscreen. Instead, we wait. It takes 1min 45secs for the camera to learn properly; learn properly how to swim, how to brush past palm leaves and, finally, how to compose a shot. Its essence is shown first before our people wander through, the ancillary subjects. Only in retrospect did this shot exist. At the time, it was a decomposed frame. We’re shown the piecemeal but remember a whole, the shot that never quite coalesced.

Akerman asks us to remember three things:

  1. That film is a choice
  2. That this choice takes time
  3. That most filmmakers are afraid to make this choice

This third fear is the only false move. There are only wrong choices if one spends too little time learning how to swim.