© 2014 ellathompson


In this week’s lecture, scenes from Scott Ruo’s ‘Four Images’, Brian Hill’s ‘Drinking for England’ and Chantal Akerman’s ‘D’Est’ were screened.  Choose one of these, and consider, in a single paragraph, what might have intrigued, interested, displeased or repelled you.

Chantal Akerman’s D’Est is particularly intriguing. Cinematic conventions have taught us that something will happen, something will be explained, that they promise there will be change, that the purpose will be revealed, that the next moment will be of greater impact. They have taught us to anticipate what is to come. But this documentary (extract) keeps us waiting and waiting. This was, at first, a little annoying. I had no idea why there were so many people standing around aimlessly in one spot. I thought the film was going to tell me why. Or reveal something about it. So I was anticipating that more information would come. But I got nowhere. Then again, I may just have missed some information in the lecture (or perhaps in the actual film) about why the people were standing around.

What I found striking about the extract, though, is the faces of the people. Their expressions. Turning to look at the camera, one after another. It was mesmerising.

Another thing that is fascinating about the piece is the different time and place of it all. Everyday life is extremely interesting if it’s any different from your own everyday life. The clothes. The weather. The reactions to the camera.

I love that simply recording people ‘being’, even if they’re not doing anything particularly fascinating, can still be really fascinating. And informative. We get to see how they look, what they wear, where they are, what they say, how they say things, their behaviour, how they stand, how they respond to things, and so on. It feels like we’re eavesdropping, intruding, privy to a private moment for each person that enters the camera’s frame or the microphone’s recording perimeter. And then we get their reaction to our intrusion. And it happens over and over. Like dominoes. It’s sort of more about a moment than anything else. An in-between moment of people’s lives. And I suppose the in-between moments are just as important as the action moments.

The extract seemed a bit like a painting to me. Of just a moment in time at a place long ago and far away. A really long painting. Length-wise. Horizontal length-wise. The idea of how it would look if the consecutive frames were put side by side. If we stretched out the footage. It was quite visually beautiful – hypnotic tracking shot capturing gorgeous compositions. Simple, but still enthralling. The individuals’ caught expressions in turn seize our attention. It’s mesmerising.

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