Touching, How Touching The Nothing Touches – My Lost Film

While having a mail correspondence with my good friend Éric Volmeer about the few films I have made so far, he kept insisting to see a film which was somehow mentioned to him by my dear Ioana Florescu. But the film in question is a delicate case for me as it doesn‘t exist anymore. It makes me kind of angry and sad. Here is what I have written to Éric about it:

Dear Éric,

I am very happy that you keep asking for my so-called „avantgarde-film“ which I have shot two years ago mainly with my mobile phone in Graz, Vienna and Augsburg. She, the woman I don‘t need to tell you more about, keeps referring to it as my best work. I don‘t think she is right but she always is. Of course, I would love to send the film to you. But I have to tell you that the film has vanished. It just disappeared. I can‘t tell you more about it and yet, there is so much more to say. I wanted to write to you about my feelings relating to the loss of a film. But then, there is also an irony as well as this constant desire in cinema which is its infinite possibility. Cinema has always been in the making until it died. It was never completed and I always felt it was right when Godard said that we have never seen its greatest works or the greatest work are those that were never really finished. My film is nothing like that, it is more like a missing memory.

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Don’t drive and shoot

The film is or was called: Touching, How Touching The Nothing Touches. It has been a work about the memories in the present. Where are we when we remember? It tried to build bridges between places we are and places we were, but not in the style of Proust, no, the movement was from the past to the present. As if we would eat that madeleine and suddenly think about how we will remember that moment in the future. It was a work that maybe continued in its disappearence. But how should I have known that? To be honest, I didn‘t know what it was until I have watched it. This makes it somehow almost tragic that I cannot watch it again. It was produced as part of a seminar on Peter Kubelka I took part in. One evening we were at the Austrian Film Museum and Mr. Kubelka talked about film. His views on digital filmmaking were as always quite simple: Digital Filmmaking has nothing to do with film.

What is lacking when Mr. Kubelka talks about cinema is time. It is not as though he does not talk about it at all, but when he talks about rhythm and time, he always goes for montage, manipulation and craft, instead of just accepting what for example André Bazin or Andrei Tarkovsky have been stating rightfully a long time ago: Time and movement are part of the very image, even if it is just one film-image. It is there because film in its core, in its very core that Mr. Kubelka sees in its material, has the ability to observe life, to react and interact with real happenings outside and capture the movement of this real world in time and thus transform it into a cinematographic reality like Godard has called and most possibly still calls it while shooting digital. I know that Mr. Kubelka respects this documentary quality of the image but still there is a question of focus. It is very easy to see that Kubelka is right in his own terms because if you tell him that time is the essence of film, than he would answer that it is also in other media like video and therefore it is not the essence. But to use an old philosophical trick one could ask the question the other way round: When time is the essence of film, maybe video and digital are still film?

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In my digital film I tried to show that every image has a temporal structure in its own. One that is not destroyed by the lack of material or even the lack of viewing what is really going on. By zooming in and reducing the information there is still something going on. Mathematically there might be a point of nothing but in terms of feeling and experience there is always a sense of what is going on and this sense is part of film.

Furthermore Mr. Kubelka talked a great deal about rhythm destroyed and enhanced by music. I think film gives the opportunity for sight and sound (sound should be treated equally because there is no other medium that is able to capture both image and sound on the very same layer, and yes, that INCLUDES digital) to get into a relation. They can be harmonic, they can talk with each other, they can argue, they can fuck each other or just play. Mr. Kubelka is a master in this but he is wrong when he says that it only works on film. Yes, again, I understand his point from a materialistic perspective and I see that questions of asynchrony are inscribed into the way film as a medium works but in a digital film there are sound and images, too. It is only that they are digital.

In my film I tried to show how rhythm is neither due to the images alone, nor to the sounds, nor to the editing, but due to all aspects playing together on different digital layers.

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Of course, there are differences between film and digital. But the mistakes and traces of the medium are not so different between film and digital. A digital filmmaker in my opinion can and should therefore search for the individual aspects of his format and try to find beauty, life and inspiration in them just like a true FILMmaker can use scratches and so on. Pixels are considered to be a weak point of digital cinema but I think one can find some beauty in looking at them. Another point would be for example the ability to be flexible or to shoot very long takes.

In my film I tried to mix the ability of digital cinema to film whenever I discovered something with what I called the beauty of the pixels. It was a film that zoomed until you could only see an ocean of pixels.

So, now as it has disappeared and Mr. Kubelka has won again…this couldn‘t have happened on film. Maybe I should tell you how it disappeared. One might say that it has never really existed. When does a film that was never shown exist anyway? This film exists only in the memory of its maker and the one person who has seen it beside him. Well, it is one of those easy fears that became true in this case. There is even a great film called 36 by Nawapol Thamrongrattanarit which deals with those fears and emotions. Maybe in our age the absence of a film creates more emotions than its existence. I don‘t know. So, I had it on my laptop as file, as more files actually. It just was a click on a list called „Touching“ (how seducing to touch with a click something called like that). It was also on Ioana‘s laptop and supposedly on my hard drive. Then my laptop broke down, Ioana‘s laptop broke down and it wasn‘t really on my hard disc. The film had vanished. It is still vanished. It is strange because I don‘t really believe it. Every second day I search my hard disc for it. It was the same when my bike was stolen on a cold evening in Vienna. For a couple of days I returned to the place where I had lost it and was expecting to find it there as if its absence was only an illusion. (I wonder here how the few people who have seen Greed by Von Stroheim feel/felt about the fact that it doesn‘t exist anymore…) Mr. Kubelka would say that my film only diappeared because it was never there. But we can talk about it, can‘t we? So it is a film about memories that has become a memory.

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All of this might seem very uninteresting for you as I am not a well known filmmaker and there is no tragedy in a lost film of someone like me. But I think in the case of an unknown young filmmaker it‘s even more tragic. I lost a film before I even started. But when can we speak of a start? Certainly not while losing a film. Naturally, I doubt myself after such an incident. How could something like that happen to me? Do I really care enough? Isn‘t that a huge problem? I know that this film was born out of necessity but as always with me this necessity disappeared as soon as the film was finished. Of course, I feel a certain need to have such a work shown in public but I don‘t feel it like a question of life and death whereas I feel this life&death vibe when I am doing it, especially in editing. But maybe there is a little hope as another version of it exists. I gave it on a DVD to the professor who is avantgarde-filmmaker Randy Sterling-Hunter. The thing is, when I asked him about my film many months after handing it over to him, he replied that he hasn‘t seen it yet as he has no disk drive (!). Honestly, I don‘t expect him to find this DVD but I have contacted him. The other possibility lies in the fact that I have at least 90% of the rough material and I am going to make the film again. But will it then be the same?

So, I am sorry, I cannot send you the film. I can only describe it. There are some turning signs of capitalism in Graz and Vienna. They move exactly in the same rhythm. There are some cigarettes near a window, the smoke of a hotel room where I made love. There are fireworks. Then you can hear David Bowie and his sun machine (isn‘t it fitting that this film disappeared?) and you can see the sun, the snow.  There is maybe a sadness, a drive between places and images that connect the past and the present or just spaces. Finally we see a horse in Vienna and it has a nervous tick. It tries to touch its its belly with its eyes. We zoom in and the closer we get the more beautiful this sickness feels.

If it re-appears I will let you know. Until then I will be in a state of constant mourning, I will be a paranoid hunter of those lost images and sounds, digital images and sounds and I will carry them with me in everything I do.

Best,
Patrick

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