Tag Archives: film

… what writers can glean from cinematographers …

Like writers, filmmakers manipulate time. They take a story apart and re-assemble it.

Robert Bresson, inquisitor and humanist, stimulated filmmakers and enriched the experience ofrobert-bresson2 viewers. With a tiny leap of the imagination his ‘Notes on the Cinematographer,’ publ. by Quartet Books in 1986, transl. from the French by Jonathan Griffin, also offer inspiration to writers of stories. Here are a few  brief notes I collated during my vocational film degree in the early 90s:

An image is transformed by contact with other images as is a colour by contact with other colours. A blue is not the same blue besides a green, a yellow, a red. No art is without transformation.

For the writer – this would apply to action and reaction, resonance or dissonance, anything that develops the dynamic interactions of a narrative.

img108 adjustedTo create is not to deform or invent persons or things. It is to tie new relationships between persons and things which are, and as they are.

This equally holds for writing. Characters discover themselves through relationships.

Something that failed can, if you change its place, be a thing that has come off.

If a writer’s darling idea distracts in one place, in another place it may earn its stay.

One dismantles and puts together till one gets intensity.

This reminds me of a Goethe quote … Dich im Unendlichen zu finden, must unterscheiden und verbinden … To find yourself in infinity you must differentiate and combine … Details works best if they have a purpose in the protagonist’s quest, especially when it comes to turning points.

An old thing becomes new if you detach it from what usually surrounds it.

This is what creativity is all about. Entrepreneurs seem to grok this.

What is for the eye must not duplicate what is for the ear (within.)

This serves as a reminder not to overwhelm a reader with sensual information.

The cause which makes him/her say this sentence or makes that movement is not in him/her, it is in you. The causes are not in the models. On the stage and in films the actor must make us believe that the cause is in him.

A one-up on the ‘show don’t tell’ writing mantra. Both telling and showing have their place, though we connect to a character more intimately through being shown the interactions with him/her self and others.

The omnipotence of rhythms – nothing is durable but what is caught up in rhythms.

We love rhythm. It measures time and gives coherence, while a counter rhythm can surprise and quicken our heartbeat. In film as in writing this might be the repetition of quirky character traits, tone of voice, tempo, mood, atmosphere, or reoccurring shifts in style and perspective, in the way we enjoy how adagio and presto in music enhance each other.

P1090890 - Copy (2)Translate the invisible wind by the water it sculpts in passing.

This ventures into the domain of poetry …  the ongoing challenge to find ways to express in words or images what rushes past us in daily life, but nevertheless affects us deeply.

The eye is (in general) superficial, the ear profound and inventive. A locomotive whistle imprints in us a whole railway station.

This is about trusting the imagination of the viewer, or reader.

Let the cause follow the effect, not accompany it or precede it.

Robert Bresson shares: The other day I was walking through the gardens by Notre-Dame and saw approaching a man whose eyes caught something behind me, which I could not see: at once they lit up. If, at the same time I saw the man, I had perceived the young woman and the child towards whom he now begun running, that happy face of his would not have struck me so; indeed I might not have noticed it.

Build your film on white, on silence and on stillness.

Profound. Allowing a unique story to emerge requires intuition, and an inner kind of listening.

*     *     *

A touching interview of R Bresson. And some video clips relating to cinema, including hand gestures R Bresson used in film.

As writers, how do we move a story from one setting to another?

In film, a sudden jump of scene is kind of lazy, unless intended to shock. In writing, too, there are more elegant ways to transit from one place, or time, to another, mainly through matching parallels or correspondences. This could be: A keyword in a dialogue repeated in the next scene, or a similar action, direction of movement, speed, light, colour, shape, sound or mood. It could also be an artificial device, featuring a narrator, or a recurring (out of time) interlude which can form the spine for the narrative.

I have time-jumps in my novels (yet to be publishend.) It remains to be seen whether they work.

Regarding spatial/temporal suspensions of linearity, I remember the beginning of the film Space Odyssey 2001. A victorious ape, having discovered a bone can be a weapon, spins his tool high into the air … time leaps … and next we see a spinning space station, shaped like the femur bone.

More recent, in the TV series The Last King – 1st episode, a time leap works well … The Saxon boy, Uhtred, captured by Danes and taken under the wings of Earl Ragnar, is pushed by him playfully into a river with the words ‘You’re as a son to me.’ In the next scene Uhtred steps out of the river as a grown man, albeit with conflicting localities.

*    *    *

On a personal note, as my life’s narrative is concerned, having made professional sacrifices ten years ago, in order to write, I wish I could shift to a scene and time that did not involve worrying about keeping my roof over my head.

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… To Witness Daisies and Earth Rise …  

1968 Earth Rise, Apollo Mission 8

1968 Earth Rise, Apollo Mission 8

A change in collective attitudes often takes momentous events. While the moon-landing of 1969  was mildly underwhelming, the image captured in preparation for the American eagle’s landing, a year earlier, was immensely moving – revealing a vastly expanded mirror to our home that spoke then, and speaks now, directly to our physical and spiritual senses. Guiseppi Ungaretti had fitting words …

‘What are you doing earth in heaven? Tell me what are you doing silent earth?’

With hindsight we can see how major historic events are being incubated years in advance to their happenings. Artists have a knack for shocking us before a message becomes endorsed, which is why I connect the film  ‘To Witness Daisies’ (1966)   with the earth-rising image, both testing limited perceptions.  A click on the title should bring up the movie on your tube.

Věra Chytilová

Věra Chytilová

Not unlike the awesome view from outer space,  Věra Chytilová presented an equally powerful pointer to our poor stewardship of earth. Initially forbidden in the former Czechoslovakia, her tragic comedy was released two years before the Prague Spring, and two years before the earth-rise image promised a new respect for nature. I hoped for a greater understanding of cosmic interconnectedness, and an assessment of the fear-based need to subdue and control the wild, the primitive, the imagination, soul … all the ignorant projections on the feminine principle, which, I think, are responsible for spoiling our planet and wounding the psyche of men and women.  Film critics felt uncomfortable with Věra Chytilová’s controversial, iconoclastic statement on the demeaning role assigned to women in our cultures. Niels Bohr expressed, ‘As long as an atom is not seen it does not exist, it is a ghost.’ To me, this implies that seeing, individually and collectively, is an active process, influencing the reality of our existence.

The Daisies

The Daisies

Watching ‘To Witness Daisies’ for the first time in 1994, I was struck by its theme of psychic starvation – sharply relevant today – and the insanity of societies where women are kept in an infantile state so as not to threaten male supremacy. The symbolic power of the film’s images, with their rhythmic and gradually peaking orchestration, creates a timeless sphere of magical reality, where meaning is expanded and revealed. The opening sequence of the film gives the context. A mechanical wheel turns relentlessly to the sound of regular drumming. The scene is interspaced with silent images of war, bombs exploding, mainly into the sea, symbolically representing the mother of all life on earth. Next, the frame shows a sun-deck by a pool. Filmed in black and white, the deck re-appears as a transitional stage. and one could add, a place at the edge of the personal unconscious. Here a question is voiced, ‘What next?’ The two teenage girls wear bikinis and their movements are mechanical, like the wheel. The sound indicates a lack of oil in the system, and the funfair trumpet played by one of the girls suggests a flat and mocking victory.

Posing for the Collector

Posing for the Collector

The outlook is set. ‘I’m a doll, everything is been spoiled in this world.’ And, as a way out of boredom, ‘If everything is being spoiled, we will be spoiled too.’ The decision to mirror a spoiled world is made, a death wish gains momentum. Daisy Blond wears a daisy chain and uses it at intervals as divination device. When the chain is thrown out of the frame, it lands on water and signals the next mise-en-scène, like a Garden of Eden where the girls dance, and where Daisy Blond picks the legendary fruit, affirming ‘their kind’ are products of a biblical myth with politically useful interpretation that prevail.

The end-feast

The end-feast

Film critics felt uncomfortable with Věra Chytilová’s controversial, iconoclastic statement about the role assigned to women in our cultures. Acted by Jitka Cerhová and Ivana Karbanová, the Daisies have various names throughout the film. I call them Daisy Black and Daisy Blond, though they are one and the same, since their communication resembles an internal dialogue trying to deal unsuccessfully with a moral conflict that offers no bridge between good and bad. To Daisy Black nothing matters, she has a timeless distance to things, everything is a game. For Daisy Blond, the extrovert, hunger makes food a central theme of the film – hunger in the sense of wanting to fill her sense of emptiness with substance. I won’t venture into psychology, but it’s easy to draw a connections to the Anorexic symptoms many young women suffer from.

During a film degree course in 1994, I wrote a long essay on ‘To Witness Daisies.’ Unable to transfer the old Mac files when switching to a PC with internet connection, many essays need re-typing, which I hope to achieve once other projects are out of the way. For now, I thought I inspire you to watch the film – and maybe share your thoughts about it.

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… hands …

Allow one hand to caress the other, feel the fine sensations through the skin of your fingertips, their manual perfection, capacity to reach out, touch and sense the rough and smooth, warmth and cold. The power of hands to hold, give, heal, remember, receive, express feelings and ideas, inner states – hands that trace shapes and yield to shapes, strong hands that build and destroy, and skilful hands that wield the tool, the brush and pen …

Käthe Kollwitz,  'Zertretene' 1900

Käthe Kollwitz, ‘Zertretene’ 1900

Käthe Kollwitz - Mütter, Krieg, 1919

Käthe Kollwitz – Mütter, Krieg, 1919

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The two drawings by Käthe Kollwitz (July 1867 – April 1945) show the incredibly gentle hands that protect – from a collection of her work in a ‘Die Blauen Bücher’ series, discovered by a friend in a second-hand bookshop in St Just, Cornwall. She posted the book to me this week. I was reminded of the plight of mothers in situations where disease and violence are, once again, out of control. And – how so often, dogmatic politics, religious or otherwise, have programmed generations to de-value the body – its wisdom, beauty and need for expression.

And there remains the question, what is being taken out of our hands? Here a wonderful video I found at the National Film Board Canada site: Faces of the Hand

And the lines from two poets whose tool of passion was the pen.

From ‘Leaves of Grass’ by Walt Whitman

… I am the poet of the Body and I am the poet of the Soul,
The pleasures of heaven are with me and the pains of hell are with me,
The first I graft and increase upon myself, the latter I translate into new tongue ….

From ‘The Marriage between Heaven and Hell’ by William Blake

… The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom …

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… journey into mystery …

Close your eyes … switch on a light in the area around your heart and see the image of a rose bud emerge … at first a luminous tip of colour … the bud stirs … the sepals gradually turn outwards. See the petals unfold in a slow and fluid movement … until the rose has opened and exudes its delicate fragrance.

Imagine the rose expanding in size … to a palatial sphere that invites into its passages. Overcome the weight of your thoughts and wander barefoot with feather-light steps towards the luminous centre. Rest here for a while … absorb the tenderness of the realm’s ambience and the exquisite fragrance of rose into every cell of your body.

Rose, autum 4 low crop 2

Become the rose …

Move your consciousness upwards … lift on spirit wings and witness the rose palace merge with the landscape below. Soar higher and look down on clusters of houses, roads, cities, fields, hills, rivers, woods … see the shape of countries, continents, coastlines and oceans spread and curve the horizon. Move higher still, until the whole earth floats in deep space like a marble.

Feeling light and trusting, imagine you are level with the moon and look back at the shining marble turning in space … ribbons of white cloud, blue oceans, pale sands, green forests, red rock and snow-topped mountains – your home – vast in your memory but also small enough to be held in your palm.

Think of the people who have been and are close to you … in love … or alienated by hurt and dispute … people you shelter in your heart or have expelled from it. Sense the mysterious weaving of souls in the tapestry of the universe … your separate thread belonging and active in the creation of earth, the home of your human family.

Know that every sincere thought travels … know the creative potential alive within you is reflected in all life forms throughout the universe …

We are the mirror as well as the face in it.
We are tasting the taste this minute                                                                                                                                                                 of eternity. We are pain                                                                                                                                                                                        and what cures pain. We are                                                                                                                                                                                  the sweet, cold water and the jar that pours. – Rumi

 

Slowly descend – return to earth – into the rose palace.

Step away from the luminous sphere … let it ebb back into the small flower, petals folding … see the bud float into you open hand … sense how its power wishes to stay alive in you … for its beauty to unfold whenever you need loving. Here is how – place the rose and the whole experience of rose-becoming into your heart.

*    *    *

Over the years I composed many similar imageries with archetypal themes. They are tools of reflection I use with clients and in workshops. When I guide, the process becomes subtly interactive and explorative. Some journeys are safe to walk alone, like the one above, and they are as powerful as your imagination allows.

Should I share more such imageries? Let me know.

Here a more elaborate space visit … http://aeon.co/film/overview/

The poem from ‘Open Secret’ – Rumi transl. by John Moyne and Coleman Barks.

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… thoughts on dark matter …

Breath shuttles across nature’s warp and weft – to breed – bloom – yearn – form thoughts – his – hers – mine – our thoughts – woven yarns flung into the unknown like a slow spread – to be unpicked

two waters meet

two waters meet

breathe in – breathe out longer – meet the other at their edge – to merge – converse – or – should you prod – witness spume lift from the wave – fire split the wire – earth shake – heaven open – dreams unravel …

In the night – specks of light appear – the rest is hidden in curved time – yet present – spirit abiding in inverse spheres – as above so below – weak neutrinos permeate all – unobserved but heard as cosmic noise from dark realms – until atoms splash towards the crack of dawn – we call it birth …

Two clusters of galaxies in collision. The ordinary matter, gas and stars from both clusters shown in red, is slowed down in the collision. The DARK matter, shown in blue, sails through and keeps on going because it does not interact. Both colours are false –the red is an image of x-ray emission, and the blue is an image of the gravitational effect on the light from more distant galaxies. Source: NASA/ESO

Two galaxies in collision. Ordinary matter, gas and stars from both clusters – in red – is slowed down in the collision. The DARK matter, shown in blue, sails through and keeps on going. Both colours are false –the red is an image of x-ray emission, and the blue is an image of the gravitational effect on the light from more distant galaxies.
Source: NASA/ESO

The background to this poem: I was feeling depressed about the superficial and withholding communication with a distrustful relative. Fed up with allusions and secrecy, I plucked up the courage to prod a straight question. The answer was as a torrent of toxic and defensive anger. After the assault over the telephone I was dumbstruck. I laid the incident to rest, and instead edited a big chunk of my present manuscript.

Before going to bed, I read in a novel, ‘Eventide’ by Kent Haruf  (a wonderful discovery – more about this author another time) and came upon a graphic scene that encapsulated my battered state – as if a bull had pounded me into the mud – which happened to a character in the chapter. Literature can deliver fitting words and metaphors for experiences.

I don’t regret my prodding. I discovered the nature of a spell on me. As it happens in families, wounds are handed down generations, and unless someone prods them the poison can’t drain.

Attitudes and projections, powered by feelings, influence us and others deeply – irrespective of distance, or time. Unexpressed messages travel. It happens unconsciously. The process might be better acknowledged if there was evidence of a medium that carries thoughts, faster than light. Mocked-at psychic phenomena could be re-evaluated. My bet is on the untraceable, neutral neutrinos that apparently pass through ordinary matter unimpeded at superluminal velocity.

At the time of writing this poem arrived …

Do Not Love You (Pablo Neruda)

I do not love you as if you were salt-rose, or topaz,
or the arrow of carnations the fire shoots off.
I love you as certain dark things are to be loved,
in secret, between the shadow and the soul.

I love you as the plant that never blooms
but carries in itself the light of hidden flowers;
thanks to your love a certain solid fragrance,
risen from the earth, lives darkly in my body.

I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where.
I love you straightforwardly, without complexities or pride;
so I love you because I know no other way

than this: where I does not exist, nor you,
so close that your hand on my chest is my hand,
so close that your eyes close as I fall asleep

*    *    *

A film by Werner Herzog I want to see: Encounters at the End of the World

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gr5IvOFXuH4

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eO9GEL_RzlY

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… story of an animation …

Cycle-off-Socialis-Close-Up_00039

 

 

 

 

 

You can find the inspiring story of an animation here …

https://courseofmirrors.wordpress.com/story-of-an-animation/

PandaHorseStudio-7

 

 

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… surfing the virtual waves …

I first accessed the internet while doing a sabbatical film degree as a mature student in the 1990’s.

Struggling with basics, feeling the fool among bright young computer literates, I typed surrealism into the search engine, a subject that rhymed with my passion for transpersonal psychology and fascinated me. Take yourself out of your familiar environment, lose the original context into which your identity had been projected, then gaze and ponder. I had done precisely that. During my first year on the film course I felt displaced and, like my son at a stopover, did a trawling assessment of the oracular unknown.

Yesh, Nurnberg station -smaller

I was going to write an essay, on how Freud’s work influenced art and film during the 20th century, a glittering subject that led me into a dreamlike maze. Each follow-up link on the screen led to another site – another artist, philosopher, writer, page after page, world after world opened until I was afloat in a sea of rich associations. Gripped by Alice in Wonderland sensations, I thought – unless I stick to the context of my essay, the web will suck me into a whirlpool. Exploring the unconscious for its potentiality and its poetic combustion via dis-identification  was of course the surrealists’ impulse, to the ends of tricking the rational mind by using trance to break out of trance – which may well be the ultimate purpose of the internet.

One of the lies would make it out that nothing

ever presents itself before us twice.

Where would we be at last if that were so?

Our very life depends on everything’s

recurring till we answer from within.

The thousandth time may prove the charm.      – From ‘Snow,’ by Robert Frost

I had worked as photographer on film-sets in a former career, so I grabbed the opportunity to study the ultimate trance in its historical context, and play with it. Manipulated by high-angles, close-ups, masking, dissolves, and cross-cutting during editing, underscored by sound, images could be displaced, speeded, up, slowed down or distorted. The surrealists were among the first to love fluid images, using them to disrupt unconscious processes of identification at the same time scientists’ deconstructed particles, and time, and space in good measure. The search within, long pursued in the east, was taking hold in the west. P1090946 - Copy

Deconstruction is the prelude to creation. Having learned that we are conscious of only a tiny island of our psyche, much like we can only see the tip of an iceberg, had affirmed my lifelong desire of seeking what is behind the mirror of appearances. In that vein, I recall feeling an awesome sense of responsibility when I first held my new-born son, imagining that my every gesture, my every tone of voice, and even my very thoughts might subliminally influence his pristine being. I was quickly grounded, adapting to the routine of being present to my little one’s basic needs, and soon realised that he had brought along his own world from another sphere, and that beyond my stimulating mirror, he would shape his own destiny.

So here was a kind of baby – an essay on surrealism. To deal with the mass of on-line leads, I took capacious notes, plundered the college library, and relied on intuition to guide me through the process of writing, allowing the essay its own agenda. It was when I first acknowledged that my sixth sense made writing a pleasure. Years later, starting my first novel, responding to subtle influences became the only way I could write, trusting that the unconscious – rather like a digital binary system – condenses and displaces material that can re-emerge with the right prompts.

Spending several months co-editing a beautiful book of reminiscence about a remarkable teacher, printed as a limited edition (also available in E-PUB soon), I started my second novel, and forayed into the on-line publishing world. Armed with the intention of finding a publisher my trust deserted me. I felt suffocated by the genre jungle, the flood of how-to-does and the racing schemes offering self-publishing. I scolded myself for procrastinating, being lazy, not believing in my work, but nevertheless stubbornly held back. Having ordered a few print-on-demand publications by friends I made on a writer’s site, who had got their act together, I was disappointed by the poor presentation of most books – cheap paper, cramped layout, narrow margins and too small fonts. Is this how small publishers and self-pub schemes treat writers who spent years on composing their epic? My heart sunk. I observed my frustration, took stock and decided to relax and wait for a beacon.

In any case, I had been fooling myself, betting on the wrong horse. Being a published author has its perks, but what truly matters to me is the actual process of writing, which is alchemy, a sculpting of feelings, a release, being other than what is familiar, uncovering myths and creating new ones, digging for treasure, a journey into the unknown that reveals horizon upon horizon.  Copy of Child at shore, colour, lowres A metaphor for my life, about the how, about the journey inside with my others, relationships woven from layers of experience into something new, each time, and time again … life writes its stories through us.

Apart from receiving vague out-of-the-blue proposals offering dubious contracts, I had two chance-encounters with publishers who welcomed a read of my MS, encounters resulting from surfing the web on the crest of my interests, often as unsubstantial as a keyword from a dream. It’s no different from how I live my live. Not exactly a structured approach, I sometimes scold myself. But for better or worse I don’t attach myself to goals, only to transitional containers, which could be an object, a character, a dream image or a place, and the rest follows. My stories emerge from kernels lying in wait, and they pursue their own agenda. I let them, and trust they will find a readership.

Like Stan Brakhage, one of the early experiential film-makers, I think of the deeply personal as universal and conceive of the real world as invisible ‘… thus in the physical or spiritual or light world all forms are beings – stones, trees, stars, streams, men, flames and turds are really facts of invisible presences. Mineral, wood, fire, water, flesh are terms of dense soulful sense.’

In this way, rather than going nuts, as I feared when first exploring the global mirror of the internet, I’ve made peace with it, relating to it as a spacious, time-freed being that interconnects all our stories and projections and offers its content according to the container I bring to it.

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