Unreal Nature

February 25, 2016

Slowly, Quietly

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:50 am

… “It is the flattest and dullest parts that have in the end the most life.”

Continuing through Slow Movies: Countering the Cinema of Action by Ira Jaffe (2014):

… Whether focusing on pace, motion, sound or emotion, Bresson’s Notes on Cinematography advocate strict restraint and minimalism: “Production of emotion determined by a resistance to emotion.” The pianist “does not slap emotion onto the keys. He waits for it.” The work of art must advance slowly, quietly: “Against the tactics of speed, of noise, set tactics of slowness, of silence.” “Be sure of having used to the full all that is communicated by immobility and silence.” “Build your film on white, on silence and on stillness.

In addition to emotion, speed and noise, Bresson is wary of “drama,” much as Jarmusch’s films [Stranger Than Paradise and Dead Man]and Sokurov’s The Second Circle resist “overly dramatic scenes.” “The real is not dramatic,” writes Bresson.

… For Bresson in particular, emotion attains maximal purity, naturalness and truth only by approximating blankness, silence and stillness. He writes, “It is the flattest and dullest parts that have in the end the most life.”

… Among the many factors in The Second Circle that seem to inhibit the son’s movements and even his prospects for survival are the turbidity and darkness of the spaces he enters. When he arrives inside his father’s apartment at the start of the film, for instance, a thick mist or vapor, somewhat reminiscent of the falling snow prior to the credits, fills the air of the dishevelled room where the corpse in bed awaits him.

[line break added] Also, the soft sound of static in the room, apparently from the radio, adds to a sense of congestion inimical to both motion and thought. Because deep darkness suffuses the upper half of the composition while the son converses with ambulance medics soon after he finds his father dead, the medics appear headless, and their spoken words seem severed from their bodies. Later in the film, when the son moves to open his father’s eyes, a similar darkness consumes the entire space over the father’s bed, about three-quarters of the frame.

… Such darkness and turbidity, by repeatedly obscuring and inhibiting the son and other characters, contribute to the pervasive sense of uncertainty and anonymity in The Second Circle. Indeed, Sokurov’s aesthetic seems based on such limits or hindrances, as when he states that “art is only where … reticence exists. A limitation of what we can actually see and feel. There has to be mystery.” He also remarks: “It should be possible for information to be concealed or for the entire image to be gradually withdrawn.”

… “Ideally,” says Sokurov, “the filmmaker would never allow the viewer to comprehend or even perceive the image, at once, in its entirety.” Instead, the filmmaker does well to motivate the viewer to investigate the image; and the film’s pace should be slow enough to permit such probing: “The most important quality the film image can possess is its capacity to offer the viewer sufficient time to peruse the picture, to participate in the process of attentive looking for something.”

[line break added] Furthermore, the viewer not only investigates the picture but also enters into its creation: “Confronted with a true cinematographic work of art, the viewer is never a passive contemplator, but someone who participates in the creation of this artistic world. All works of high art are built on confidence in the delicate consideration and intuition of this person. They always leave something unsaid, or conversely, say too much, thereby concealing some simple truth.”

My previous post from Jaffe’s book is here.

-Julie

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