Monday, July 29

Architecture and Place in Documentary Film by Eve Marguerite Allen

Eve Marguerite Allen discusses the way architecture and place undergo construction and destruction at the hands of inhabitants in two documentaries: Over Your Cities Grass Will Grow (2010) dir. Sophie Fiennes and Village at the End of the World (2012) dir. Sarah Gavron.

Architecture and Place in Documentary Film

All places are in a continuous, gradual flux of being built or unbuilt, both physically and ideologically.  All buildings are temporary; some are just more temporary than others, as was asserted by the British architect Cedric Price. At times, structures are designed to be impermanent, even moveable and nomadic like the Canadian Newfoundland fishing communities that float their lightweight houses behind them when moving across water to new grounds. Others are built to last indefinitely like the Greek amphitheatres or the Pantheon but will in all likelihood crumble at some point. And occasionally places are forced into disuse.

Two contrasting documentaries examining places at key points in their own process of being constructed or unconstructed are Sophie Fiennes’ Over Your Cities Grass Will Grow and Sarah Gavron’s Village at the End of the World. In the first, an artist has taken on an abandoned space occupied by disused manufacturing works, he then builds multiple structures of his own, making physical his own idea of an imaginary space. It is the vast creation of one individual. When visualised on film it is often physical structure, inhabited and uninhabited, that offers visual clues to permanency. But this space is not intended for permanency or occupancy and instead is used to demonstrate the industrious process of art making. In the second documentary a tiny fishing village in Greenland may become abandoned as the population falls below 60. It has been lived in for countless generations and the handful of existing structures evolve to meet the necessities of the seasonal or quotidian activities of the inhabitants.

Friday, July 5

Four Views of Cinema - Part Three: Searching for Ways of Experiencing Films by Charles Rees


In this article Charles Rees offers his personal insights about how image and sound can be re-‘read’ in such a way as to transcend current narrative constraints. He offers examples of films which have influenced and impressed him, and extrapolates on ways in which cinema might develop in the future.

My four views stretch over a long period.
Each individual sees differently.
The Camera Image sees differently from humans.

Third View: Sound Should Lead 

I ran into a student friend who told me he was using a pinhole camera. He had punctured a film-can and covered the hole with camera-tape, which he would remove to expose frames of 35 mm film stock inside the can. This lens-less technique gave his photographs a special atmosphere, as if they had ‘grown’ in the dark.
     He offered to demonstrate this particular camera obscura to me by taping large plastic bags to the windows of one of my rooms. I cut a small hole in this blackout and suddenly the image of what was outside filled the whole room: dim and upside-down. It moved: the room was full of swaying leaves.
     I brought a blank sheet of A4 paper near to the hole. There was a perfect image, bright and focused. The image was authoritative but it did not have a human-expressive quality. Yet it was beautiful and strange. Particularly strange were the clouds and the leaves of the trees. They seemed to count for more than when we saw them with our eyes. Conversely, the objects of human construction: the parked cars, the motley street-furniture and the buildings appeared drab and seemed to count for less. This strangeness was not due to the accentuating of what was already bright. The camera had a different way of seeing altogether. The image was qualitatively different to the same scene seen with one’s eyes. It was disposed more towards nature than human-made things.

Tuesday, July 2

Signification: The Naming of Characters in Solaris by Guy Dugdale

Where do the characters in Solaris get their names? This brief study suggests that Stanislaw Lem, a cultured Middle European intellectual, is using them, playfully, to point back to specific historical individuals, and, in this way, to the nature and origins of the characteristic concerns of all his work.

Solaris follows the convention, found in other Soviet science fiction, of a world apparently, though not explicitly, unified on the model of the Soviet Union (and, in the film, speaking Russian). Black and Asian faces are seen, and names are often not Russian, as here. Apart from anything else, this ‘internationalism’ doubtless flattered Soviet authority on whom these artists depended.

There is more to these names. With one exception, each of Stanislav Lem’s characters appears to allude to a specific historical individual. Learning something of these namesakes supplies the means of guessing at the author’s thoughts about his own creations, or his novel more generally. ‘Guessing’, because the intention is often clearly playful or ironic. The final effect of these shared names is that the characters in Solaris are themselves something almost like ‘Visitors’ - fantastical re-imaginings from the recorded fragments of long-dead actual personalities.