© 2014 ellathompson


Our Korsakow film explores the limits of – and the sensation of – addiction. We ask the question, ‘what is addiction?’ In particular, we are questioning the limits of what defines ‘addiction’. Our film is inspired by Darren Aronofsky’s signature style of quickly cut close ups, especially in his 2000 film, Requiem for a Dream, which too explores addiction in its various forms. It is an experimental examination of the human condition in its most compulsive – and perhaps alive – form. It is not a documentary, but it does contain fragments of authenticity – quoted text snippets of interviews of people describing the feel of addiction, and some of the actors in the footage ‘playing themselves’ with their personal addictions. Our ultimate aim is to create an affective piece that explores addiction on a visceral level. It is life exaggerated. Life close up. Sensation-oriented. In constructing this mood of indulgence, we are inviting the user to seek connections among the clips in regard to their sensatory experience and contemplate the limits of ‘addiction’. We are encouraging them to expand their notion of addiction to the overlooked normalities and abstractions of life – anything that shares the sensation of addiction.

We investigate a number of realms of addiction alongside various effects of addiction. Archetypal addictions of substance abuse, and behavioural problems like gambling, video games, exercise are acknowledged. However, we gravitate more toward seeking out anything that is strange and unusual and not typically ‘addiction’, but that still shares its qualities. We expand the idea of addiction to accommodate for the everyday, even the banal. Little behavioural quirks, personal mannerisms, habits are examined and presented with the same sense of rush, intimacy and fragmentation as the more stereotypical addictions. In the context of the underlying theme, these “trivialit[ies] become imbued with significance” (Shields 2010). We move from away from transparency as we plunge deeper into more abstract and illusive infatuations that perhaps remain unnoticed in daily life.

Our K-film draws from abstract form in experimental filmmaking. Using certain camera techniques, we isolate objects and place a lot of emphasis on “pictorial qualities” of colour, texture, form and, most importantly, movement (Bordwell & Thompson 2013). Some of our clips isolate objects from their mundane, everyday context, abstracting form and bringing forward aesthetic qualities (Bordwell & Thompson 2013). For example, a clip of someone pushing their nail cuticles back is shot in extreme close up, and the user is invited to notice the texture of the skin, the nails, the cuticles, alongside the fingers’ angular form and their strange, fidgety action. Users are invited to “notice and enjoy” and to “contemplate” these aesthetics – to look upon them with “impractical interest” (Bordwell & Thompson 2013). In fact, our film works by seducing the user with this glorification of aesthetic – colour and shape and line and movement – in order to foster a fixation in the user like that of addiction. For example, one clip is an extreme close-up of a lighter being clicked and flame appearing. The user is encouraged to appreciate this sudden contrast of bright, flickering flame against black, immobile background, and the throw of glow on the fingers holding the lighter. They are encouraged to experience satisfaction from the colours, the movements, the shapes, and, of course, the clicking sound of the lighter. Our K-film works to promote the user experiencing a sense of gratification for each clip they view.

Our Korsakow film also draws from associational form. This is in the sense that the connections among the videos predominantly involve aesthetic qualities, but these qualities are “associated with broader concepts and emotions” (Bordwell & Thompson 2013). The diversity of our ‘addictions’ renders some combinations of clips to seem without any “immediate logical connection”, but their juxtaposition “prods” the user to seek a meaningful connection (Bordwell & Thompson 2013). We exploit the “power” of associational form in terms of its ability to “guide” emotions and “arouse” thinking (Bordwell & Thompson 2013). More specifically, we are constructing the sensations of addiction around things that are not typically ‘addiction’, and, in doing so, we hope to expand the user’s view of what could qualify as addiction.

In this experimental approach, we use repetition and variation of elements (Bordwell & Thompson 2013). The variation is in the diversity of things that are shot. These are various objects and actions that are representative of various ‘addictions’ and various realms of ‘addiction’. A shot of a bottle of pills being opened and pills reducing in quantity as a representation of addiction to prescribed medication. A shot of book pages turning and close-ups on words as a representation of a fixation with being immersed in another world. A shot of a hand touching another hand as a representation of addiction to social interaction – even suggesting that love is an addiction. Variation is also in the quoted text from interviewees. Fragments of a range of statements describing addiction are presented alongside video clips. For example, “it’s fun”, “it hurts”, “no one knows why”, “it passes time”, “sucks you in”. These work on an affective level. They create a tone of intimacy and an overall mood of indulgence.

The repetition is in the techniques we employed to capture and represent these behaviours and ideas. One of the fundamental qualities we kept consistent within the work was a closeness with the user. We work on a personal level with the user. Our videos are shot entirely in close-ups and extreme close-ups. These close-ups emphasise texture and form, and exaggerate motion. In addition to extreme close-ups, other camera techniques like subtle handheld camera movements and out of focus moments are employed to intensify this sense of intimacy. Absence of soundtrack renders sound far more salient when it occurs for brief flashes in the clips, again serving to intensify this impression of intimacy. The user is plunged into close up encounters of objects and activities and human behaviour. The result is intimate engagement with the ideas and a visceral impression of addiction. These visual and aural close ups are perhaps uncomfortable, but they are also compelling. They exaggerate, but they hold a sense of honesty and rawness. We are delving into the feel of addiction.

Another basis for building our visceral impression of addiction for the user was to construct a sense of rush in our film. Motion is exaggerated within the clips. Close up shots intensify any motion from in front of the camera or of the camera. Editing was also manipulated to emphasise motion – speed of the clips was often increased, and quick cuts were often used. The clips are also very brief – only a few seconds long. There is a rhythm within and among the clips. Everything is brief and quickly paced. It all happens at once. Things tick. Stuff occurs in fleeting ‘flashes’. The K-film has a pulse. A drive. We’re emphasising ephemeral rush – “Life… flies at us in bright splinters” (Shields 2010). We’re attempting to give the user the experience of the rush of addiction.

Fragmentation is another founding idea of our film. In our fast visual and aural close up encounters, we capture only fragments of things. Close framing invites viewers to look upon the objects as fragments, or fractions, of a larger thing – to abstract form from a mundane object and appreciate its aesthetic qualities. Out of focus parts intensify this sense of only seeing bits. Sometimes the fractions presented are briefly unrecognisable in their isolation from the larger whole. Movement of action, speed of editing, and briefness of clips exaggerate the impression of fragmentation. Although our videos are largely contrived, we contain “fragments of actuality” in our fabrications (Bordwell & Thompson 2013). We have snippets of text from interviewees describing the sensation of addiction. Some of the actors in the clips are ‘playing themselves’ in acting out their personal addictions. In this sense, our fabrications are punctuated by bits of authenticity and honesty and truth. It is all “mosaic-like reassemblies of existing bits and pieces” (Shields 2010). It is “scavenged (…) experiences and expression” that we are using to create a mood (Bordwell & Thompson 2013).

The general Korsakow interface works in favour of our film’s ideas. The interface adheres to the hypertext mode – it is a “closed database of video clips that the user [can] browse via a video hyperlink interface” (Gaudenzi, Gaudenzi & Gaudenzi 2012). The user has an “exploratory role” (Gaudenzi, Gaudenzi & Gaudenzi 2012). The fragmentation of the interface is evident in the very nature of Korsakow as a closed database made up of parts. Only a fraction of the database is presented through the interface at a time. The Korsakow interface is almost a collage of videos arranged as a network. This is conducive to meaning-making in that it “inspire[s] thought that follows the structure of memory, impulse and flashes of association” (Frankham 2013). Discrete units are related in “constellations” (Frankham 2013). Elements are brought into “contact” (Frankham 2013). Different meanings arise “out of each combination” (Frankham 2013). This is perhaps harnessing the “non-linear potentiality that can be associated with thought” (Frankham 2013). We want our users to think. We want them to compare. To seek connections among the video clips. To look at the arrangement as a whole. The Korsakow system is made up of a collection of jumbled fragments that clash together in the way of montage and give rise to meaning (Frankham 2013). We are manipulating these gaps between fragments that act as “spaces for engagement”. We are encouraging the “potential for multiple interpretations” (Frankham 2013). The interface serves as a map to access all of these fragments – a “spatial narrative device” which changes with the user’s “navigation in time” (Luers 2013). The user navigates through these fragments, creating combinations that yield unique meanings.

The interface is designed so that four images – the main SNU, and three thumbnails – are merged as one larger frame. This arrangement is parallel to our overriding notion that things we may see as different from addiction may not in fact be so separate. The videos show very different behaviours and mannerisms. But they present similar human emotions. Similar sensations. These videos are merged into one frame. They are not separated. They are unified. The idea is the same. The videos/thumbnails share the same space, and so, too, do these ordinary mannerisms, abstract infatuations, and addictions. The main SNU is on the left hand side of the screen. This SNU is big. It takes up a lot of space in the interface. It is close. Intimate. It works to indulge the user. Three thumbnails are then positioned to the right of this SNU, adjacent to one another. These thumbnails have different filters on them. This is so that they are easily distinguishable from the main SNU with which they are connected. The colour filters also heighten this warped impression that we are going for. Each thumbnail link is the same height as the main SNU, but a fraction of its width. Each is a thin image strip segment, revealing only a fragment of the thumbnail, concealing the rest. Each thumbnail was carefully selected from moments of intrigue in each video. Each strip segment was carefully selected from the most interesting fragment in each thumbnail. It is a process of discovery that entices the user – revealing the videos that these fractionated thumbnails conceal. The quotes collected from interviewees are positioned below the main SNU. Their brevity is intended to match the video clips’ brevity.

Part of what is compelling about the Korsakow interface – especially for our particular subject matter – is that it prevents the user from seeing the whole picture at once. We chose thumbnails rather than previews because the user must click on the thumbnail in order to see the video, rather than simply hovering the cursor over the preview. We are motivating the act of clicking. The user is curious and anticipates what the video linked to the thumbnail will show, and they are enticed to click and find out. The clicking is gratified by delivery of the video and its compellingly stylistic content, not to mention the satisfaction of the clicking act itself. But the video is fleeting, and the user recognises that this is only a fraction of the whole Korsakow film. They are encouraged to discover more fragments of the film. And the clicking act becomes a compulsion. This clicking act is part of the constructed visceral experience of addiction.

Our Korsakow film is an observational exploration of the human tendency for impulse and fixation. It attempts to imitate a sensatory experience of addiction – it is intimate, fragmented, and there is a sense of rush and impulse. The film stimulates noticing. We notice this tendency for compulsion not only in obvious disorders, but also in overlooked mundane activities – the banal, the everyday. This tendency is part of living. The user is invited to reflect upon themselves and their own banal and abstract infatuations that remain unnoticed in daily life.

Our videos have a tone of seduction, enticement, allure. A mood of indulgence. They glorify addiction with affective aural and visual aesthetic. There is a sense of rush, tick, pulse in the way the user navigates through the material and uses the interface. Our videos tick. The film has a pulse. It is reminiscent of the rush of addiction. Addiction is drive. Motivation. Reason. Stimulus. Addiction makes you tick. Addiction is fun. Addiction is living.

Clicking is an act. A behaviour. It’s addictive. This Korsakow film encourages it. We are giving the user the experience of the rush of an addiction. It’s intimate. Fast. Close. Really close. Everybody has their own addictions and habits and infatuations. Drives. Motivations. These may remain unnoticed in daily life. Every experience of this Korsakow film is different for and personal to each user. This K-film is an imitation of the experience of addiction. Although the film is largely fabricated, it is built from fragments of authenticity. This Korsakow film can perhaps be equated to “art for life’s sake” (Bordwell & Thompson 2013).



Bordwell, D & Thompson, K 2013, Film Art: An Introduction, 10th edn, McGraw-Hill, New York.

Frankham, B.L. 2013, ‘Complexity, Flux and Webs of Connection’, A Poetic Approach to Documentary : Discomfort of Form, Rhetorical Strategies and Aesthetic Experience, PhD Dissertation, University of Technology, Sydney, pp.137-147.

Gaudenzi, A, Gaudenzi, J, & Gaudenzi, S 2012, ‘Interactive Documentary: Setting the Field’, Studies in Documentary Film, vol. 6, no. 2, pp. 125-139.

Luers, W, Soar, M & Gagnon, M (eds.) 2013, ‘Plotting the Database’, Database | Narrative | Archive: Seven Interactive Essays on Digital Nonlinear Storytelling, viewed 20 May 2014, <http://dnaanthology.com/anvc/dna/plotting-the-database>.

Shields, D 2010, Reality Hunger: A Manifesto, Knopf, New York.





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