During my first year at UWE film, Felix Hodgson, Louis Barron-Forde and I made an interactive film using new and innovative software ‘Stornaway.io’. Stornaway works to mirror interactive films such as Netflix’s ‘Bandersnatch’, and I was really excited to work with new software outside of traditional linear filmmaking. Thus, we birthed ‘Lost and Found’; a film that looks into the human experience and how we react to certain areas in our life- grief, sentimental items and their respective memories, and fantasy.
I was really excited to work with Louis and Felix on this film; not only am I close friends with both of them, but I really like their filmic styles. We all spoke about starting from the same position in the narrative: our amazing actress, Mereida Fajardo, would wake up in a bed and make certain decisions as to how she lives out her day.
Felix looked into a narrative of small fantastical beings living in Mereida’s wall. I really enjoy his take on how we grow up and interact differently with fantastical elements of our lives; he masterfully created this and I loved watching his meticulous production process.
Louis looked into how we deal with grief; Mereida spends this pathway dealing with the death of a loved one and living in a room which consistently reminds her of this loved one. I found Louis’ take on this subject to be touching and endearing; he dealt with such a difficult subject matter beautifully and really brought a personal touch to this part of the film.
I looked into how we interact with sentimental items and how they attach to our memories. In my pathway, Mereida keeps losing sentimental items and looking back on their respective memories. I find the idea of sentimentality really interesting; why as humans do we attach emotional attachments to things involved in our memories, when we can never relive those memories. I really loved exploring this, knowing this idea is very different for each person- Mereida was such a good actress to work with on this, as she brought her own sentimental items to the shoot, which I think helped the whole performance of this pathway.
Not only was the process of making this film very enjoyable, but it also led to it being shown at Encounters film festival. In late August, Kate and Ru from Stornaway.io reached out to us saying they wanted to include our film in their submission to Encounters, under the section of ‘immersive film’. We worked closely with both Kate and Ru through our production, helping to catch errors in their programme, and thus improve the software as a whole. We were delighted when we were offered this opportunity.
I, subsequently, sat down and did a roundtable interview with Kate and other filmmakers who have used Stornaway.io, as well as Dr Roy Hanney and Paul Raschid. It was a fab conversation about our creations, and the future of immersive filmmaking. You can find our interview on this page when it is out on friday:
I’m a true believer that we all need change in life. Without it we would be stagnant and get no where. Change is a blessing that pushes us forwards into being a new person. If we stayed where we were forever we would get bored and claustrophobic, never mind the fact that we would never progress.
As I’m writing this I’m sat in a coffee shop, looking like I’ve cried all the tears I could ever cry, and drinking a coffee. I’ve handed in the keys to my 1st year accommodation and it’s all just settled in that I’ve entered a new chapter in my life.
1st year was filled with so many new experiences and opportunities to grow. I went through so much pain and so much happiness. It was a roller coaster of doing some well needed growing up. And I truly needed it. But handing in my keys cemented the fact that I wasn’t living with Morgan and Harrison anymore. That I was a different person. That I could let go of all the hurt.
In the book I’m reading, “101 essays that will change the way you think”, Brianna Wiest talks about how necessary change is to growing as a person. However, she also talks about how we will always look back on the past with a rose-coloured tint. “Because experience is always multi-dimensional, […] what you choose is indicative of your present state of mind. […] This doesn’t mean to disregard or gloss over painful or traumatic events, but simply be able to recall them with acceptance.” I experienced a lot of painful experiences in first year, and visiting the place where I experienced it all- the nights of crying or having to have Morgan comfort me when I was down- was a big step for me. It’s like the final part of acceptance and closure. I can look back at 1st year with such happiness that I achieved so much, and I can now accept the pain that accompanied the good times.
Pain is necessary. Change is necessary. It’s all about growing as a person, and I can feel myself doing that. There were so many situations which I never got closure from in 1st year, and that I truly believe I never will get closure from. But that is OK. I’ve found my own closure.
So how is this helpful for story writing? And why am I writing about it? Pain is such a crucial part of good art. Most of my best work has been made out of a place of hurt- whether that is my music or my filmmaking. There are so many good blog posts that will argue about this notion:
But, for me, my best work comes when the audience can feel my passion, and my passion comes from my pain. Contrary to popular belief, pain is actually good for us. Discomfort or fear can push us further and allow us to grow. Because of westernised society, we have been classically conditioned to interpret pain, discomfort and fear as negative emotions that need to be eradicated and “dealt with” almost. This, however, is not the case.
To sum this all up: pain is not always bad. Channel your emotions into your art. Take that leap. You never know what is around the corner so make the most of the pain because I guarantee you, it’ll help you grow as a person.
I’ve found myself a lot, within my work, comparing myself to others. It’s very easy, in a course of over 100 talented filmmakers, to compare yourself to the beautiful work that comes out of this creative sphere. I see myself projecting my insecurities onto other people; either I find holes in their work, with the “I could’ve done better” mindset, or continuously comparing my work to others, with the “I’ll never be as good” mindset. It’s safe to say most creatives will deal with the repercussions of imposter syndrome one time in their career, mine just has started in uni.
I’ve been listening to podcasts by Brené Brown- an American professor, lecturer, author, and podcast host- for over a year now. My mum introduced me to her after I started dealing with anxiety and a loss of self esteem during lockdown. Her many books and podcasts talk through the beauty of embracing our imperfections, using our mistakes as learning opportunities, and cultivating self compassion. When first introduced to this I thought it to be cringey- we would listen to her on car rides and I felt like a white woman was shoving “live, laugh, love” down my throat. It wasn’t until I moved out and started living alone that I started to understand Brené’s work more.
Brené’s book “The Gifts of Imperfections” has been a huge awakening to me as a creative. Her podcast called “Unlocking Us” has given me many life lessons over the past year, but nothing has resonated with me in the way Gifts has. Again, I must sound like a cringey white woman, but hear me out. Brené talks about topics of authenticity, gratitude and values in a way that is hard not to perk your ears up to.
One of my favourite quotes from her being: “Vulnerability is not winning or losing; it’s having the courage to show up and be seen when we have no control over the outcome.” I think in the creative field, it’s very easy to feel vulnerable, with our work being so personal to us as an individual. I know when I’ve had crit sessions this year with my tutors that I’ve felt personally attacked when they’ve not liked my work. I’ve always thought “They know how hardworking I am” or “Well, I guess I’m not good enough to be on this course,” without actually listening to the feedback they have to give me. I’ve actually found when performing to a high standard and not receiving criticism, I tend to feel similar; there’s nothing for me to work on so there’s no starting point for me in the next project. Trust me when I say that I am trying to work past all of these mindsets.
In Brené’s book Gifts she talks about letting go of perfectionism and cultivating self compassion, with in episode 1 of 6 of her podcast series on the book, her expressing: “perfectionism […] is a defense mechanism […] it keeps us from being seen.” It’s still taking me a long time to understand that perfectionism is not healthy; I grew up in a school system that meant that if I was constantly getting good grades, I was successful and worthy of admiration. Unfortunately, I’ve taken that into my career path with me, and now if I get a bad score on a module at uni, I let it personally define me and let it make me feel unlovable, when that really isn’t the case. It’s so easy to let our professional and personal lives intertwine as creatives; when I write a film, more often than not, I am writing from personal experience. So, when someone dislikes work that I have put time and effort into, not only do I feel like they are discrediting my time and effort, but they are also invalidating my feelings within that experience. I think all creatives will deal with this battle of making beautiful art from a place of hurt, and the subsequent lack of fulfilment when it is criticised in the public eye.
Unfortunately, with any creative area you open yourself up to criticism. So, while Brené does talk about self compassion and not letting perfectionism define us, she also does recognise that you cannot live life without criticism: “You choose to live in the arena, you are going to get your ass kicked. You are going to fall, you are going to fail, you are going to know heartbreak.” Creatives live a life of rejection and must recognise two different realities: while we make work from a personal standpoint (which often gives us connection with our target audiences), we do open ourselves up to criticism, whether we like it or not. I, myself, am starting to learn how to take this criticism less personally- however much time I’ve put into something won’t change someone’s opinion on how they view my work. In short, if they think it’s bad, telling them I spent 3 months working on it won’t make it any better. I just have to accept someone has opinions that are different to mine, and I need to open myself up to their feedback in order to improve my work for next time. Of course, this doesn’t mean always caring what people think; the ability to welcome feedback does not mean this should define you; instead, feedback should be used as a tool of self improvement, not self definition.
So what am I really rambling on about here? It’s all well and good knowing on face value about self compassion etc, but how can we put this in to practice? This is something I’ve really struggled with in my journey of self love; it’s all well and good preaching self love and not caring what people think, but when it comes down to it and the cards are on the table, do I actually bring these practices into play? Simple answer being, no. I’m very aware of the fact I lack self compassion and the courage to be authentic in the face of differing opinions. When it comes down to it, I rarely stand up for myself and I rarely look at situations and say “hey, it’s ok. I know you tried your best and the outcome may have not been what you wanted, but that’s ok.” Brené speaks a lot on self-talk, and how what we consume and how we speak to ourselves has a great imprint on our self image. I’m finding more that I’m starting to recognise those pitfalls; those times when I talk to myself negatively, I am more actively trying to change how I speak to myself. I’m trying to welcome more self-compassion into my life, as hard as it is.
No one is perfect, and it takes time to put these practices into play. Self developmemt YouTuber Anna Akana talks a lot about where we can start in this journey, and in a video titled ‘6 reasons why we self sabotage’ states that the first point of call is learning to be more assertive, either with ourselves or towards others, and setting boundaries where needed. She states about teaching yourselves these practices so much that when the time is needed for self-compassion, assertiveness or subverting perfectionism, it will come as second nature rather than a battle. But, of course, she also says this takes time.
I’m going to end this blog post by saying this; being a creative is both a blessing and a curse. Being able to connect with people on an emotional and mental level is so amazing, but this desperate need to perform and continuously connect can leave us feeling sub-par and underwhelmed. To all my fellow creatives, it will be a long time before you will be able to take criticism lightly, or untangle the mess of the work/personal intrrtwinement. However, encorporating these practices into your daily life and finding the self encouragement you need to keep going after rejection is a lesson you will just keep learning through your career as a creative. And I believe in you. One day I hope to look at one of my films and be wholeheartedly proud of what I’ve made, without ripping myself to shreds. Until that day, I’ll keep listening to Brené, keep watching Anna, and keep having these conversations with my fellow creatives, so that at least we are not alone in this battle.
‘Lost in Translation’ is a Romance/Drama by Sofia Coppola; a 2003 film that follows characters Charlotte and Bob, and their respective dissatisfaction for their trips to Tokyo. Through their glances across a hotel, a friendship is built where each learn about their counterpart’s life, and take good lessons from each other. Bob sums this up perfectly in his line: “The more you know who you are and what you want, the less you let things upset you.”
I, personally, had never watched the film before, but had heard my friends rant and rave about it, telling me I would love it and it was their favourite film ever. So, on a gloomy Wednesday night, I tucked myself up with a hot chocolate and a tub of ice-cream and began the journey into ‘Lost in Translation’.
From the get-go I knew why this film was so loved; the cinematography and lighting were stunning, never mind the beautiful sound and storyline. Everything just slot together perfectly. I found it so easy to relate to both Bob and Charlotte; Charlotte gets left behind by her photographer boyfriend and finds herself aimlessly wandering around the Hotel and the city; Bob is doing a job he does not enjoy and has no passion for. It’s quite easy to feel both ends of the spectrum- to feel left behind when people you love go off and do big things, but respectively, when you go off and do big things, to only find they aren’t what you thought they were.
I connected more with Charlotte than Bob, probably because she is a woman and is closer to my age, with a similar feeling of isolation (uni halls have felt a lot like the hotel in this film, and the outside world as merely something to observe, rather than to live in). She gets caught up in conversations with her husband and Kelly where she feels like an outsider to their world of photography, money, fortune and fame. It’s clear that Charlotte does not value this, and instead wants to lead a life of passion, intrigue and discovery, as well as having small moments of intimacy rather than the saturation of fame and fortune.
Bob similarly mirrors this; he lacks interest in the ad he is making for Whiskey, and instead has enjoyed small moments with Charlotte where they run through the streets of Tokyo together, or merely just get a drink at the hotel bar. I think its safe to say that these two characters show our inner need for genuine human connection, as apposed to the lack thereof that comes with the idea of fame.
This film teaches a lot about isolation; though Charlotte is left alone, she visits temples and arcades on her own, seeking some sense of exploration in an unknown city. And yet, she comes up empty-handed. She calls friends from home, expressing how unhappy she is, only to be told they are busy. She yearns for genuine human connection, and that is why I personally believe she is drawn to Bob. He is also searching for human connection; though he encounters many people everyday, it is evident that Bob is not happy within his current work. He is not treated as an everyday human, instead he is glamourised and made to be something bigger than himself. He has a connection with Charlotte because she treats him like a normal person, rather than someone to be idolised. He also finds a lack of connection in his relationship with his wife, who blames him for leaving his children, but who also has no time to actually listen to what he has to say.
I believe this film has so much to say on so many different topics- isolation, dissatisfaction, connection, passion, intrigue and self discovery. Both characters are on a journey to find what they love in life and what they need. It’s also important to realise the age gap of nearly 30 years between these two characters, and how they are both still on similar journeys- the film essentially saying it is ok to not know what you want to do or who you are, no matter what age you are. As Charlotte puts it: ” I just don’t know what I’m supposed to be.” and, as the film tells us, that is ok.
With reference to illustrated examples and critical writing, discuss the importance of experimental filmmaking as a form of art practice. What insights does it bring and what does this require of audiences?
It is undeniable that experimental film, and its similar sister movements, are part of the building blocks of the conventional fictional cinema we all know and love; experimental film movements such as the cinèma pur movement and the surrealist movement, that came as a reaction of the exponential growth of narrative cinema in the early 20th century, show us the importance of having conflicting cinematic styles. In a way, fictional and experimental film have a sort of transactional relationship- narrative film is needed to create stereotypes in cinema that experimental film can subvert, but avant-garde cinema is needed to challenge fictional filmmakers so that they are not repetitive in their craft. Experimental film rejects the techniques so commonly found in conventional cinema, aiming to provoke a reaction and evoke certain thoughts, moods, or emotions. In this way, avant-garde cinema can be seen as more of an experience, rather than a form of entertainment, inviting interpretation rather than mindless passivism. Many early experimental filmmakers of the 20th century had a purist view towards how experimental film should be made, valuing the return to film in its most elemental form, of light and motion. Avant-garde cinema can be widely misunderstood and branded to be too far-fetched to be meaningful; this leads to it being massively underappreciated as an art style. This also calls into question what experimental film can do for the wider world of film, and how the two film worlds interact. In this essay, I will explore the many reasons why experimental film is an essential part of any filmmakers viewing repertoire.
It is worth exploring how, historically, experimental film and fictional film interact with each other and how they have influenced each other. 20th-century movement ‘Cinèma Pur’ (also known as the ‘Dada movement’) was a retaliation to the expansion of popularised cinema; as (Turvey, 2011) states: “Dada was also constructive, that it aimed not merely to destroy, but to create something new.” Instead of being just destructive of mainstream cinema, experimental film had always set out to expand on the world of cinema as a whole. It aimed to provide a new perspective into film, unconventionally telling stories, and evoking a unique response through audience spectatorship. (Fiorelli, 2016) asserts: “Movies communicate, in a roughly Gricean way, and that they do so partly through showing—with their perceptual content helping imply certain fictional truths.” Films interact through showing their perspective on issues and addressing these issues either through narrative or experimental structures. However, the counterargument to this is that mainstream and avant-garde cinema do not in fact interact. While experimental film does open itself up for interpretation, this does not always mean that these films intend to symbolise anything, never mind have anything impactful to say on pressing issues. (Rees, 1999) claims that: “it is sometimes important to make stupid art”, suggesting that not all filmmakers intend for their work to have a meaning in the first place. Experimental filmmaker (Buñuel, 1929) stated about his own work: “no idea or image that might lend itself to a rational explanation of any kind would be accepted.” He went on to add that “Nothing, in the film, symbolizes anything.” It is evident that, even the makers of impactful experimental film state that not every piece has to have an intended meaning or purpose. Nonetheless, this does not mean films are not up for interpretation from their respective audience members. This is further evidenced by film theorist Stuart Hall in his Reception Theory, where he suggests that this invitation into interpretation would lead to different readings of media, depending on the spectators’ social context. (Hall, 1973). With experimental film not always intending to be meaningful, it is easy to question how this sporadic art form could ever interact or relate to the formulated style of popularised mainstream cinema. Nevertheless, both styles are important in the world of filmmaking.
Following this, I am going to look into why experimental film is an essential building block for any form of mainstream cinema. The earliest form of films could be deemed to be experimental; sound on film was not created until 1927, and films made beforehand were mainly made without a clear narrative structure (see ‘La Sortie de l’usine Lumière à Lyon’, (1895) The Lumière Brothers; ‘Fred Ott’s Sneeze’, (1894) William Kennedy Dickson; ‘Roundhay Garden Scene’, (1888).)
Narrative structure, as we know it today, was not yet established in a way that would create entertaining films. Films were experimental for exactly that reason- filmmakers were still actually experimenting with how to make films. (Morrow, 2013) puts it perfectly: “Without an established cinematic grammar, most early films were just one shot […] with no narrative.” Without set narrative arcs- such as The Hero’s Journey (Campbell, 1949)- filmmakers were free to create as they wished. This was new technology that was still not fully understood and, therefore, would not have been influenced by the modern constraints of editing, lighting, narrative structure, and archetypes (Jung, 1969). These film conventions would eventually define mainstream cinema and be the exact points in which later experimental film would aim to subvert. So why is experimental film still relevant in modern-day filmmaking? The simple answer to that is the need for a continuation of experimentation. Film, in the grand scheme of things, is still an extremely new art form; as the world of cinema expands, it is more important than ever to stay inquisitive and experiment with the many ways in which films can be made. Subsequently, it is important to delve into the audience experience, and the myriad of techniques that can be used to evoke mood, thoughts, and feelings in the way that experimental film does.
Obviously, experimental film is a wide art form and is arguably one of the freest forms of art expression within film. From the early 19th century experimental filmmakers who were just understanding the world of cinema, to more modern names like David Lynch, it is indisputable that avant-garde cinema is a rare form of art that does not need to be understood, it merely is what it is. It is for this reason that this style of cinema is so inclusive in the way that it allows artists to freely express themselves the way that they wish to. The cinèma pur movement, which I also touched upon earlier, values a more purist take on experimental film, valuing light and motion. This perfectionist view tends to lend itself back to the earliest stages of experimental filmmaking, where light and motion were the only available options. It is worth filmmakers keeping these two film fundamentals at the heart of any piece of film work; as (Poland, 2015) expresses so perfectly: “From the early days of cinema, lighting has been a fundamental element in creating the final picture. Just as in real life, light is everything for the moving image. Light is all the human eye sees.” Filmmakers must value the early focus of experimental film- light and moving image- before anything else, as it holds an essential place in the viewing experience of audience members, never mind the actual cinematic aesthetic of the piece.
Audience, and subsequently spectatorship, is an essential part of any viewing experience of a film. Films are specifically crafted to the way they will make the spectator think, feel, and experience the piece as a whole. In mainstream cinema, this can be observed via Blumler and Katz’s ‘Uses and Gratification Theory’, in which “emotional involvement correlates with other modes of reception, especially with diegetic involvement (getting absorbed in the fictional world), socio-involvement (identifying with characters), and ego-involvement (relating the film to one’s own life)” (Bartsch, 2010). Audience members tend to need to be emotionally invested to fully experience film as a whole. So, why is it that so many people are drawn to watching avant-garde cinema? Though weird and wacky, experimental film does have some sort of gratification to its audience members too. Its niche styling and unconventional techniques can sometimes be refreshing to audiences, who are so commonly accustomed to the repetitive nature of mainstream film conventions. Others might say that experimental film can be used as a more spiritual experience, notably The Holy Mountain (Jodorowsky, 1973) is an experimental cult classic, with (Lazic, 2020) describing it as helping audiences to “rethink their relationship with themselves and, as a result, the world.” With the odd lure that experimental film has attached to it, viewers can be brought on an emotional and spiritual experience that has a similar feeling to psychedelics. Both psychedelics and avant-garde cinema can bring people to a greater connection with themselves and the world around them, which might add to the glorified cult that follows these unconventional pieces of art.
Another experimental film known for its interesting interaction with its audience is Meshes of the Afternoon (1943). This film by Maya Deren is almost hypnotic in its editing, immersing the audience into the chaos- almost in the same way as The Holy Mountain. (Real, 2015) describes this audience experience by stating: “Subjectivity and memory are joined together to entice the audience into a trance, thus conveying the unique and idiosyncratic quality that the film emanates. More importantly, their combination results in an immersive reality.” Rather than taking audience members on a spiritual journey, Deren plays on editing techniques to create a hypnotic interaction with the film, only further drawing audiences into her themes of self acceptance, anxiety, and desire. Compare this to meanstream cinema, where spectatorship is mostly passive. Audience members are carried through narrative with continuity editing, CGI and gripping storylines. This is why experimental film is not widely viewed in the same way as mainstream cinema; fictional film promotes passivism and feeds you all you need to know- experimental film aims to do the exact opposite. We watch experimental films to have these immersive experiences into the self that popularised films can merely dream to reach.
In closing, experimental film is a vast and ever-growing style of cinema- one which we do not fully understand yet. Its uses vary between spectators: from spiritual journeys to a form of film expression, to just something different to watch. Experimental film fills in the creative gaps that mainstream cinema cannot reach. It is, in fact, as important now as it was in the creation of cinema; it allows all filmmakers to keep an open mind to their craft, and to test new techniques without preconception or prejudice. Though widely misunderstood and underappreciated, I believe this style of cinema is one of the purist and most beautiful form of moving art know to us in present day. It permits a level of freedom that other film styles do not. It is this freedom, for me, which is its wonderful selling point to this niche and widely accepting art form. Avant-garde cinema is an immersion into the craft of cinema and any form of exploration into experimental film should be valued within any filmmakers watchlist.
Bartsch, A. (2010). The Use of Media Entertainment and Emotional Gratification.
Buñuel, L. (1929). an interview into the writing of Un Chien Andalou.
Campbell, J. (1949). The Hero with a Thousand Faces.
Fiorelli, L. (2016). What Movies Show: Realism, Perception and Truth in Film.
Hall, S. (1973). Encoding and Decoding Television Discourse.
Jung, C. (1969). The Archetypes and The Collective Unconscious.
Lazic, M. (2020). The Holy Mountain review – a spiritual journey to make you love the world.
Morrow, J. (2013). A (Very Brief) History of Experimental Cinema.
Poland, J. L. (2015). Lights, Camera, Emotion!: an Examination on Film Lighting and Its Impact on Audiences’ Emotional Response.
Real, M. M. (2015). Meshes of the Afternoon: An Investigation Into Subjectivity and Memory.
Rees, A. (1999). A History of Experimental Film and Video.
Turvey, M. (2011). The Filming of Modern Life: European Avant-Garde of the 20th Century.
I think there is a lot to be said about affection and attention in this world. I grew up in a generation that spent their teenage years surrounded by social media and dictated with what attention they were grasping from different sources. I think many of us were hung up on the idea of love, so much so that we have lost the true meaning of it. We long for attention and affection, and when we cannot source it from every corner of our lives, we feel as if we are not loved and as if we have failed as human beings, when this simply is not the case. We are in constant search of something more, almost god like; this something that cinema depicts to us. We strive to have this unattainable desire towards others, and for others to have such a strong desire towards us; two people who have such strong emotions towards each other that their lives are almost combined- this is what is presented to us by Joe and Clementine in ‘Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.’
I love the notion of erasing someone completely from your brain after they cause you pain. I am sure we have all had this thought. The ‘I wish I’d never met you’ after someone hurts us so much that we would rather remove all the good memories we have with them, in order to make the pain go away. However, as we all know, this simply is not possible. I believe that the hurt and pain we gain from the world around us are only steppingstones to whoever we are meant to be; maybe you are not meant to be with that person, or maybe you are not meant to go to that place or go to that event. Life is so complicated and built up so much on circumstance and impulsive decision that it is almost impossible to control life to go your way. In the simplest terms, I guess what I am trying to say is everything happens for a reason; you get your heartbroken so you can grow as a person and grow thicker skin for the next time you inevitably get hurt. It is all a learning process and is something I find to be quite beautiful.
I am a sucker for a good love story- I find it to be bittersweet as I am not hugely in search of my own. I enjoy observing and I think watching a love story where you can be emotionally invested and feel all the things the characters feel can be quite stunning. However, I also enjoy the fact that I can watch the end credits, go home, and go to sleep, knowing that I am not dealing with the hardships that the characters of these films are facing. I am not saying that we do not all deal with struggles, but I do like the fact that I am not actively seeking that love and validation, with the knowledge that I would get hurt in the end anyways. I feel quite content with my own life and with living it on my terms- not having to check my schedule next to another person’s. There is a lot of beauty to be found in self-love and being able to give yourself all the things a partner could give to you. I preach to many of my friends that we are the ripe age for self discovery, and that we should all be alone in order to go into the world.
This is not to say I do not believe in love, but I do not believe in the constant search for validation from another human being. I am surrounded by wonderful loving friends who inspire me and motivate me to be the best version of myself, and a large family who support me in all my endeavours. I simply do not believe that the search for love is worth it, and I currently love being alone. I find love in smaller places in my life, and sometimes I find that to be worth a whole lot more than any relationship or entanglement I have had previously. But I see love between the people I see everyday: couples who walk down the high street hand in hand and my friends who have been in loving relationships. Sometimes love, although brief, can be a great way to learn about yourself and how you respond to certain situations.
As I said before, I like to observe, and to observe other’s happiness so that my faith in humanity can be restored. There is a beautiful word for this- sonder. By definition, it means: the realization that each random passer-by is living a life as vivid and complex as your own. I get the realisation that every single ‘happy’ couple that I pass in the street probably has their own disagreements and what I like to label as ‘teething’ (the jigsaw pieces that do not quite slot together when two people are in a relationship together). I guess what I am trying to say is we need those hardships in our relationships, even platonically, to learn about ourselves and how we interact with others. And I find great beauty in knowing there is always pain that comes with happiness, but also happiness that comes with pain. It is a bittersweet and aggravating reality, but one that I believe must be learnt by us all.
As Al Rees expresses in the preface to his book ‘A History of Experimental Film and Video’, it is widely accepted that mainstream cinema and what is known as experimental or ‘avant-garde’ cinema are two very different sectors of the same art form. Mainstream cinema tends to abide by cinematic conventions, whereas avant-garde cinema tends to break them. Everyday audience members are typically accustomed to these conventions- having Hollywood as the centre of any film-goers attention has meant that experimental film has been deemed too unconventional, and therefore widely misunderstood and underappreciated. However, Al Rees conveys to us that experimental film is just as important as mainstream cinema; it is important to appreciate the unconventional with the conventional and “it is sometimes important to make stupid art.”
His ideas around the use of experimental film are still prevalent in the modern-day; avant-garde cinema calls into question many socioeconomic and political issues and presents it to its audiences in new ways. For example, in Chantal Akerman’s 1968 film ‘Saute Ma Ville’, she covers the idea of suicide, as the protagonist proceeds to execute gassing herself. Experimental film also allows its spectators to question the film’s purpose as an art form, with Rees describing this as “avant-garde film crosses over into debates on post-modern art and cinema.” This calls into question the argument between cinema as art or entertainment. In a few cases, there are arguably a few films that cross over these two ideas, depending on the spectatorship and their individual previous experiences, meaning they will react to films in different ways.
One example in which art is prioritised over entertainment within the scope of experimental film is Vera Chytilová’s 1966 film ‘Daisies’, in which two young women embark on a destructive path to rebel against their materialistic society and communist government. Many stills that are taken from ‘Daisies’ could be argued to be of more artistic than entertainment value- notably when the two girls ‘cut’ each other up within the bedroom of their shared flat. Chytilová is masterful in her creation of these scenes, almost mimicking a collage art style. This only further’s Rees’ notion that experimental films are not tied to any specific rules but are instead “a distinct form of cultural practice, with its own autonomy in relation to mainstream cinema.”
Al Rees argues that cinema is its own art form. Experimental film is still part of the art of cinema, however, like art, film has its own movements. While conventional art has movements such as surrealism and expressionism, the film has experimentalism and new wave cinema. Al Rees’ argument about cinema as art is still relevant to today’s films, even twenty-two years on. We still see in modern-day cinema the difference in film movements; mainstream cinema has branched out to blockbuster franchises such as ‘Marvel’ and ‘Star Wars’ which follow conventional filmmaking techniques such as match cuts and tracking shots. Avant-garde film has made its way slowly into mainstream cinema- David Lynch has become widely known by film fanatics for being “the first popular surrealist.” (Kael).
This also calls in to question the actual definition of art, and thus if cinema falls under the wider definition. The dictionary definition of art is “The expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power.” Cinema is made by a team of people who individually use their creative skill and imagination, also in a visual form and is widely appreciated for their beauty and emotional power. However, it could be argued that experimental film does not fall under this definition. It could be argued that avant-garde film does not evoke emotions from their spectators, as their motifs and general visual experience does not emotionally capture their audience members enough in order to evoke any emotion. In contrast, it can be argued that avant-garde films can be appreciated for their beauty. Abstractly, experimental films can still hold a house style conveyed via their directors’ auteurship. Therefore, audience members may appreciate it as a piece of art for its placement within a director’s work, or just for its general aesthetics and filmmaking techniques.
It can also be said that the viewing experience of a film is very dependent on the relationship between the viewer and the film. As film critic Mark Kermode says: “great films give back to you whatever it is you bring to them.” and that really rings true within avant-garde cinema. So much of experimental film is built upon by the perspective of the spectator; whether they come to the viewing experience having a prejudice against or a bias to experimental film can greatly affect their overall takeaway from the film. Similarly, a spectator will view content within a film differently depending on the material and themes presented to them, and thus their relationships to this. It is always important to remember that experimental film as a genre has more scope for interpretation and spectatorship than the typical blockbuster mainstream cinema.
Experimental film is largely based on the information you bring in viewing the film, rather than the information the film feeds you. Popular cinema is based upon feeding its audience information so they can fully understand and appreciate the narrative of the film. In contrast, experimental film works on hinting at information and, to a great extent, how you interpret the film rather than how the director presents it to you. There can be great beauty found in the unknown and the misunderstood themes, narratives (or lack of) and motifs that experimental film can bring about.
In conclusion, Al Rees has a lot to say about the beauty of experimental film in the wider scope of cinema and how it fits into the culture of art and to debates into post-modern art and cinema. However, there is also a lot to be said about how spectatorship can really have an effect on what those audience members take away from the film after they leave a cinema. This is a discussion that I personally believe is far from over.
Within cinema, we seek to find alignment in the subjective nature of film. We are often onlookers to character’s lives, and thus their decisions, emotions, and social interactions. In this way, we are often emotionally invested into how we subjectively view a character’s life, but from an onlookers’ standpoint. However, while we believe we are objectively watching the unfolding of a narrative, we are swayed by the choices of the director, cinematographer, editor, and sound designer into perceiving their fictional world in a certain manner and, therefore, evoking a certain emotional response.
Perception and emotional responses in films coincide with each other; in Lindsey Fiorelli’s 2016 essay ‘What movies show: realism, perception and truth in film.’, Fiorelli describes that film’s “perceptual content and representational content entwine insofar as we perceive a film’s fictional world.” and that “they have an epistemic directness—they present their fictional truths immediately […] we are directly presented with sights and sounds and can perceive the objects, people, and places depicted in the same sort of way we perceive things in the world.” Here, Fiorelli explains how we cannot perceive a fictional world within a film without directly correlating it to our own experiences; how we perceive expressed and implied content cannot be separated in our personal viewing experience. In short, we cannot distinguish between the physical presence of what we are shown, and the emotional response we produce in response to these visuals.
Internal conflict within film is often a taboo topic- not only is it hard to present a personal emotional struggle to a seemingly unknowing audience, but it is also extremely hard to further emotionally invest this audience to feel empathetic and therefore sympathise with the character shown on screen. One film that perfectly captures the themes of isolation and internal conflict is Martin Scorsese’s 2010 film Shutter Island, in which Teddy has to deal with the loss of his wife, while also dealing with the inner conflict of not knowing if what he perceives is narrative or reality. Teddy faces the hardships in his life while trying to carry out his job of investigating the disappearance of a murderer at a hospital; Scorsese perfectly grabs his audience’s attention by sharing Teddy’s dreams about his wife and the ever-changing world and allowing them to see the world from his view. This, in turn, allows for a deeper insight into Teddy’s internal conflict and deteriorating mental state; this gives another layer to the film and allows for spectators to emotionally connect with Teddy in a way that they do not do with other characters.
I think that internal conflict and the idea of subjectivity is a very interesting topic to cover while exploring film; although it is hard to express internal conflict within filmmaking, it is not impossible. I think, when done right, it can add emotional dimension to a film that other films cannot capture. As well as this, the notion of subjectivity is quite interesting debate; whether the pre-context of the viewer affects their viewing experience, or if the decisions made by the director and their surrounding crew affects the viewing experience of the spectator.
‘The City Never Sleeps’ is a film I shot on a BlackMagic 4k Pocket Camera I borrowed from my uni. The voice over covers ideas of isolation within the city- this follows on from my last project ‘1:01’ which covers isolation within uni halls. I mixed the cold visuals of an accommodation block- the opening and closing of lift doors and the coldness of corridors- with the warmness of my own uni room. Unlike my last project, I show my own personal space as comforting rather than isolating. However, I also blend the cold with the warm, showing my flatmates Harrison and Morgan as the warmth brought into a once cold and isolating space. This further explores the ideas I was exploring in the summer with my series ‘Faces, Places, Traces’ in which I looked at how we form connection via how we occupy space.
‘1:01’ is a film I made in my uni halls about the loneliness of moving away and out of home, only to be faced with deafening silence and the lack of comfort that uni halls gives. ‘1:01’ tells a story of a girl being wide awake at 1am trying to find comfort in material objects; her book, her bed etc. I chose to use a contrast between the tungsten lighting of my salt lamp and the neutral, almost cold, colours of my uni room. I also chose to use a music track with a high pass filter so that it feels as if the character is isolated from the world around her. However, I also created a connection to the external space of the world by using a diegetic soundtrack of the rain. Both the high pass filter and the diegetic sound creates this weird feeling of being both simultaneously connected and disconnected to the world around this character, thus creating this odd sense of isolation she feels.