Friday, February 13, 2015

The Love Symphony: A Fantasy of Darkness and Light

I've spent the past couple of weeks working on a film. At first it was mere accompaniment to music, something better than a blank screen to look at, but it quickly evolved into an artwork in its own right. Fundamentally it's a non-narrative film, a collection of stock footage and other segments of film to portray a mood, rather than carry a definite plot. This sort of places it in a similar field to very few other films, Disney's Fantasia, Koyaanisqatsi (Powaqqatsi, Naqoyqatsi, other similar films), some pop music or 'art installation' videos, but I think my film is different. I don't think those other films really worked well as artworks. What is their aim? What was my aim?

In the end my film became like a visual symphony more than a story. A music symphony is not the same as a book. I think there is a good story to a good symphony, that Beethoven's 5th Symphony is about something, but it's not something with an obvious plot like a film such as Pulp Fiction or North By Northwest. The Love Symphony film rapidly became like a symphonic film, it about something; one could say it's a love story, but it's not something tangible and explicit in plot. The Love Symphony is different from Fantasia and the Qatsi films for a few key reasons.

Firstly I used repetition. Of course, all music uses this, although notably the earliest music didn't. Musical forms evolved to repeat themes and build upon them. I decided that I'd like to use the same film clips or similar films clips, such as the same clip played at different speeds or with different edits, throughout the film. As in a musical work, I think this adds an important structural element that helps reinforce meaning and help cognition. Without repetition it becomes hard to build any drama because drama comes from contrast; differences that exist only in similarity.

Secondly, I fundamentally based the images on the mood, and much of that was directed by the music too. Putting images to the music is really important (or more specifically, putting images to the mood, which the music defines). Adding music to images is a backwards form of film-making, for films of this type.

Ultimately the result is something like I imagine Richard Wagner would call a Gesamtkunstwerk. That most multi-spectral of artists would surely have seen cinema as the realisation of his ideas; yet cinema now is primarily a narrative form. There are musicals, or plays, but the vast majority of cinema is either a filmed stage-play, or filmed opera. We might have increasingly sophisticated special effects (sets, costumes) but, for a medium that can convey any image, sound and emotion, the mere transposition of play to screen seems to miss out a whole type of film.

There are other types of film though; trailers and advertisements are films too, and yet are rarely considered genre works in their own right. These are unique, most have no 'plot' as such, or characters we can involve with.

My film is made up chiefly from royalty free stock footage. A lot of old films were used, bit here and there. The full gamut of human emotion and experience is contained in those films. What more is needed as a palette? Sometimes I needed special scenes and I filmed those myself; I wanted a candle for example, and a ticking clock.

The liberating thing about making this film was the speed, the lack of technicalities. It's all a matter of editing, going straight to the artistic, creative, emotional content right away, not spending hours or days hiring actors, building sets, buying equipment, converting file formats, catering, finding funding! And all of the time wasting technical periphery of film making that probably frustrates every artistic film-maker. This is real film making, it was like composing the music in the first place, which of course is as symphonic in scale and content; that here is as vital as the written script in a normal film.

The music is ultimately why Koyaanisqatsi worked; Philip Glass' score fitted the images and mechanical doom-laden mood of that film, the only one that works artistically. The music in Fantasia is amazing, but rather that choose one symphony they chose a mish-mash and the confusing lack of consistency is why that film didn't work as an artwork. An artwork must have one theme or central idea. One.

"The Love Symphony: A Fantasy of Darkness and Light" is about 45 minutes long and will be premiered at 5pm on March 7th 2015 at Gabriel Fine Art, Old Paradise Yard, London. The hard part for me will be to get enough people seeing this! I do hope enough do. One of the difficulties of film as a medium is just this; from great directors and huge film production companies to small independent film makers, the problem of getting a finished film seen is as hard as making the film in the first place.

For details of the venue where you can view this film, see www.phenomenologyoflove.com

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