Kevin O, Week 3, Artist Statements: Research

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Béla Tarr

Right at the center of a seemingly incomprehensible world, at the age of 32, the question "why do I make films" seems unanswerable. I don't know.

All I know is that I can't make films if people don't let me. If I don't receive trust and funding I feel like I don't exist. The last one-and-a-half to two years of my life went by in just such a state of apparent futility - I was given no opportunities to realize my plans through the official channels. Two courses of action were left open to me: to gradually suffocate or search for some alternative. Then followed a terrible year of begging for money and trying to discover whether it's even possible to make a different type of film in Hungary, one that doesn't depend on the official and traditional sources of funding. And once the money's finally all there and I've managed to create some small opportunity, kidding myself that I'm "independent," that's when it hits me that there's no such thing as independence or freedom, only money and politics. You can never escape anything. Those who give you money also threaten you. All that remains is obligation. The film has to be made. Then you desperately clutch onto the camera, as if it were the last custodian of the truth that you had supposed existed. But what to film if everything is a lie? All I can be is an apologist for lies, treachery and dishonor.

But in that case, why make films?

This also leads to internal conflicts, as my self-confidence wanes, the crew start to leave because the venture appears uncertain and I can't pay them enough. And I am left with a general feeling of anxiety. So I flee from this form of desperation into another - the film.

Probably, I make films in order to tempt fate, to simultaneously be the most humiliated and, if only for a few moments, the freest person in the world. Because I despise stories, as they mislead people into believing that something has happened. In fact, nothing really happens as we flee from one condition to another. Because today there are only states of being - all stories have become obsolete and cliched, and have resolved themselves. All that remains is time. This is probably the only thing that's still genuine - time itself: the years, days, hours, minutes and seconds. And film time has also ceased to exist, since the film itself has ceased to exist. Luckily there is no authentic form or current fashion. Some kind of massive introversion, a searching of our own souls can help ease the situation.

Or kill us.

We could die of not being able to make films, or we could die from making films.

But there's no escape.

Because films are our only means of authenticating our lives. Eventually nothing remains of us except our films - strips of celluloid on which our shadows wander in search of truth and humanity until the end of time.

I really don't know why I make films.

Perhaps to survive, because I'd still like to live, at least just a little longer....

ANALYSIS

This rings true for me on several levels, and I like it because it was written early in his career, at age 32 - I saw the Regis Dialogue with Bela Tarr a few years ago and I think that his character comes through quite eloquently in his films, and that I can see both the continuity of his attitude over the course of 30+ years, and also some universal truths about the frustrated young(-ish) art filmmaker.


Albert Maysles

Why

As a documentarian I happily place my fate and faith in reality. It is my caretaker, the provider of subjects, themes, experiences--all endowed with the power of truth and the romance of discovery. And the closer I adhere to reality the more honest and authentic my tales. After all, knowledge of the real world is exactly what we need to better understand and therefore possibly to love one another. It's my way of making the world a better place.

How

1. Distance oneself from a point of view.
2. Love your subjects.
3. Film events, scenes, sequences; avoid interviews, narration, a host.
4. Work with the best talent.
5. Make it experiential, film experience directly, unstaged, uncontrolled.
6.There is a connection between reality and truth. Remain faithful to both.

Some Do's and Dont's

• Hold it steady.
• Use manual zoom, not the electronic.
• Read as much of the PD 170 manual as you can.
• Read book or chapter in a photography book on how to compose shots.
• Use the steady device that's in the camera.
• Never use a tripod (exception: filming photographs, for example).
• You'll get a steadier picture the more wide-angle the shot. In a walking shot go very wide angle.
• Hold the beginning and end of each shot. The editor will need that.
• Use no lights. The available light is more authentic.
• Learn the technique but equally important keep your eye open to watch the significant moment. Orson Welles: "The cameraman's camera should have behind its lens the eye of a poet."
• Remember, as a documentarian you are an observer, an author but not a director, a discoverer, not a controller.
• Don't worry that your presence with the camera will change things. Not if you're confident you belong there and understand that in your favor is that of the two instincts, to disclose or to keep a secret, the stronger is to disclose.
• It's not "fly-on-the-wall". That would be mindless. You need to establish rapport even without saying so but through eye contact and empathy.

ANALYSIS

This no-nonsense, stripped-down, matter-of-fact approach absolutely matches, in my experience, the aesthetics and the priorities of the Maysles Brothers in their documentaries.


Lars Von Trier


I CONFESS

Seemingly all is well: Film director Lars von Trier is a scientist, artist, and human being. And yet I say: I am a human being. But I'm an artist. But I'm a film director.

I cry as I write these lines, for how sham was my attitude. Who am I to lecture and chastise? Who am I to scornfully brush aside other people's lives and work? My shame is only compounded by my apology that I had been seduced by the arrogance of science falling to the ground as a lie! For it is true that I have been trying to intoxicate myself in a cloud of sophistries about the purpose of art and the artist's obligations, that I have thought up ingenious theories on the anatomy and the nature of film, but--and I confess this openly--I have never come close to disguising my innermost passion with this pathetic smoke screen: MY CARNAL DESIRE.

Our relationship with film can be described and explained in many ways. We should make films with the intention to educate, we may want to use film as a ship that will take us on a journey to unknown lands, or we can claim that the goal of our films is to make the audience laugh or cry, and pay. This may all sound plausible, but I do not believe in it.

There is only one excuse for living through--and forcing others to live through--the hell of the filmmaking process: the carnal satisfaction in that fraction of a second when the cinema's loudspeakers and projector in unison and inexplicably give rise to the illusion of motion and sound like an electron leaving its orbit and thus creating light, in order to create ONLY ONE THING--a miraculous breath of life! This is the filmmaker's only reward, hope, and craving. This carnal experience when movie magic really works, rushing through the body like a quivering orgasm . . . It is my quest for this experience that has always been and always will be behind all my work and efforts . . . NOTHING ELSE! There, I've written it, and it felt good. And forget all the bogus explanations about "childlike fascination" and "all-encompassing humility." For here is my confession: LARS VON TRIER, A SIMPLE MASTURBATOR OF THE SILVER SCREEN.

Still, in part three of the trilogy, Europa, I have not made even the slightest attempt at a diversion. Purity and clarity have been achieved at last! Here nothing conceals reality under a sickly layer of "art" . . . No trick is too tacky, no device too cheap, no effect too tasteless.

JUST GIVE ME A SINGLE TEAR OR ONE DROP OF SWEAT; I WILL GLADLY GIVE YOU ALL THE WORLD'S "ART" IN RETURN.

One final word. Let only God judge my alchemic attempts at creating life on celluloid. One thing is certain. Life outside the cinema can never be equaled, for it is his creation and therefore divine.

ANALYSIS

This is utterly lovely - it was written pre-Dogme 95, also relatively early in Von Trier's career and on the brink of his international reputation as a filmmaker. It's totally overwrought and melodramatic and repressed, reflecting his directorial sensibilities quite accurately.

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