Tuesday, January 28, 2014


I rarely feel like reviewing art films because I usually feel that great compromises have been made. After all, films engage enormous budgets and countless people. Often enough, directors have to give in to financial concerns, i.e. how much is the film going to draw in. Blockbusters use up a lot of money but usually make at least two or three times as much. Though we are artists ourselves, we also find most arty films pretty pretentious and contrived. Directing such an enormous project and making it work as a whole - well, that must be hard!

I really want to draw attention to a film called "Womb", though. For its UK release in 2012 it was renamed "Clone". This is the most artful and compelling film we've seen in years, and in our mind it's not pretentious. It's such a shame the marketing was so rubbish in the UK. We might not have even seen it if we'd just gone by the cover. You are lead to expect a typical Sci-Fi movie - that's judging by the change of name (Clone from the original Womb) and the tacky, banal green poster, but the film is anything but. This of course allures the wrong people to watch it - well, what was the point of that exercise, eh? I guess we are lucky to have it here at all.

Frankly this cover is shocking!!

You really should be prepared for real art (and I don't say this lightly). I wish I had, I would have paid much more attention from the start. In terms of pace, style and moral questioning it is a little bit akin to 'The Island', a Russian film by Pavel Lungin about a monk (see my review here). Of course, the director Benedik Fliegauf of Clone (Womb) is Hungarian, it's set in Germany, and was first released in Russia. I don't always see slowness as a virtue, but some directors make it work. Everything in this film seems a bit dislocated and not quite real, which I feel adds to the sense of meaning and atmosphere over entertainment. Both Martin and I felt that the vision expressed here comes fairly close to the kind of aesthetics and meaning that we are looking to create ourselves. Interestingly, the sea takes on a similar role as in my own little artist's film "Tides". I've noticed the sea is quite the theme in a lot of contemporary music with this kind of minimal and "grey" aesthetics (cf Peter Broderick and Graham Richardson aka Last Days).

It is beautifully executed in a very contemporary looking minimalist style almost entirely in shades of grey in the good tradition of Scandinavian drama, but it's not sterile and boring. How very easy to make this kind of film visually cliched. Instead, it's full of atmosphere and texture and a lot of beautiful close ups (quite a contemporary way of filming). The minimalist music by Max Richter (a composer we both quite like, for the most part) blends in beautifully with the rest of the film - you don't always notice it's there. This simplicity is echoed in the story, which is stripped to its bare minimum in order to highlight certain viewpoints, those little symbolic bits that you're supposed to pay attention to in order to string it all together. It's a deeply symbolic film that engages your braincells. I would recommend reading up on what it all means, since you could easily miss a few things. Maybe do it afterwards when you need to fill in some gaps? People have pondered the symbolism so you can look that up on the internet. You probably also need to understand a little bit about cloning and how it works. Consider that cloning doesn't involve two parents, so if a woman carries a clone, she's not the real mother.. There's also a 'full circle' so you need to pay attention to the first scene and how it relates to the end. I rather not reveal too much else as I believe you should watch it with fresh eyes.

The film makers also daringly tackled an interesting and contemporary, but difficult taboo laden moral issue, which should stimulate intelligent people. It's all done with great confidence and there are few shortcomings. It's not a film for everyone, for sure. Thankfully someone makes this kind of thing. And it only cost 13 million dollars as opposed to 130 for the really rubbish "A Good Day to Die Hard".

Check out this piece of sound art and artistic TV theme from 1963!
(BBC sound artist Delia Derbyshire and Dr Who)


Tuesday, January 14, 2014


My film project "Visible/Invisible" has finally been completed, after some delays. The (independent) third part, "Tides", was no doubt the most difficult one to put together. I collected clips throughout the summer and autumn and finished it all just after the holidays. The clips were mostly ones that I just felt like staging, not entirely sure how to put together in the end. Others I collected as I saw something that I thought could be interesting material. Then I had to figure out how to use filters and when to create my own colours and effects (all colours are mixed by me).

The sounds took a while to edit. As I have explained in previous blog posts, they were based on some material I recorded on my camera while in London, as well as the sound of some carillons and church bells and my own voice expressing disturbing sensations (which left my voice damaged for six weeks!). On top of that I used a vintage copyright-free recording of Verdi's Ave Maria, which I tinkered with to give it a personal and contemporary feel. 


In "Tides", the third and concluding part of the trilogy, the contrast between objective and subjective reality come to the forefront. There is an almost unbridgeable gap between a person's subjective experiences and their objective reality. Jean-Paul Sartre stated that humans come into being in the eyes of the other. This fundamental truth is one I have carried with me all my life. Very often, the environment remains unaware of the agony of the inner self, but it is also often asked to remain hidden because of shame. Sometimes distress brings on a desire to cover up and to present a pleasing facade. Paradoxically, this facade also acts as a wall that can be hard to surmount, especially if there is no one there to assist. The film aims to raise questions to do with imprisonment inside the body and mind, identity, connection and social adaptation - issues many disadvantaged people face in today's society. How can society help its members overcome shame?

Perhaps the imagery doesn't seem to correspond with the idea of being disadvantaged, but that is actually the point. It's about invisible illness and inner distress. The issues of physical pain and not feeling comfortable within one's body regardless what it looks like, are crucial aspects of the film. It's also about trying to connect with nature, animals and other humans. The sense of connection is one of the most vital things about our existence - if not even a condition for life. Though establishing good connections isn't always very successful in the world today, it's still what helps us survive and overcome some of our fundamental loneliness. There is a looming sense of the finality and ephemeral quality of life that we can only overcome through acceptance.

Tides refer to the idea of the rhythm of life and the contrasts; imprisonment versus freedom, quaint versus dreary, beautiful versus ugly, emptiness versus fullness, connection versus lack of connection, togetherness versus loneliness, pain and illness versus health, sanity versus insanity... inner and outer, claustrophobic and open... in short, many of the fundamental dichotomies that define our dual experience of life. The repetitive music also underlines the rhythmic, cyclical quality and "eternal return" (or "eternal recurrence") of our experiences and affects.

"Whoever thou mayest be, beloved stranger, whom I meet here for the first time, avail thyself of this happy hour and of the stillness around us, and above us, and let me tell thee something of the thought which has suddenly risen before me like a star which would fain shed down its rays upon thee and every one, as befits the nature of light. - Fellow man! Your whole life, like a sandglass, will always be reversed and will ever run out again, - a long minute of time will elapse until all those conditions out of which you were evolved return in the wheel of the cosmic process. And then you will find every pain and every pleasure, every friend and every enemy, every hope and every error, every blade of grass and every ray of sunshine once more, and the whole fabric of things which make up your life. This ring in which you are but a grain will glitter afresh forever. And in every one of these cycles of human life there will be one hour where, for the first time one man, and then many, will perceive the mighty thought of the eternal recurrence of all things:- and for mankind this is always the hour of Noon". (Friedrich Nietsche, 'Thus Spoke Zarathrustra')


Before Christmas I shared this project with a young person who was unable to understand why I would want to make films. Why make films when my collages are already personal and intriguing? As this person hadn't seen the complete films and was only judging a few images, it was an especially hurtful (or thoughtless) remark. The imagery and sounds make sense only when stringed together. Even then you sometimes wonder how people in general perceive this kind of thing. Perhaps they also fail to see the point. Learning how to do films was a big challenge but it opened me up. I felt that I had more means of expression, as more dimensions (moving image and sound) helped me create something that seemed to encompass more of life. Now I quite feel like making something in 2D again.

Some people also feel prejudiced against the tools provided by software, however I (along with my photographer parents and my husband) feel that they are just as valid as tubes of acrylic paints are for a painter, and how you use them is dependant on your talent and creativity. As I have said before, less choice (i.e. simpler tools) can be a good thing as it forces you to try harder and think your project through a great deal more.

I put my heart and soul into it and would hope that the message comes across, and does touch somebody out there. It's all done with simple means that come nowhere near the kind of gear that some people have. That certainly bothers me, however I do not wish to believe that this fact would be in the way of true, heartfelt expression. What defines an artist is surely their desire to keep exploring themes and media, and the wish to expand one's expression.

All three films are now available as a DVD!
For a sound artist who uses her voice in creative ways not unlike how I have been imagining using the voice, check out Iris Garrelfs.
The distressed voices may also bear some resemblance to Wahn by Tangerine Dream (from the album Atem)