the rapture is finally here!

I’ve been working on my final film (rapture) for Nonfiction over the past few weeks, and here it is, in all its “final” cut of glory (this is to say, I will be continuing to tweak and perhaps totally re-do over the coming week, and a more final version will make its way to Vimeo as well).  With that in mind, please watch, read my discussion of the work below, and please please please give me feedback!!!  Why bother being alive in the 21st century if we don’t take advantage of our ability to crowdsource-workshop our work?

rapture. a film by anna swanson.

A modified version of my project proposal, for the provision of context:

In keeping with the fairly personal, autobiographical work I have already done for the course, my final project will be a piece that delves into my personal archives. While I was abroad in the spring, I shot a decent amount of video on my Nikon D5000, which I had on my person at pretty much all times between March 15th and June 3rd. Because all of my archival footage was shot on a Nikon D5000, it isn’t the highest quality that it could be, but it has a great value in its digital-indexical referencing of lived (and remember) experience for me. This specific aesthetic is in the tradition of the autobiographical avant-garde’s “simplification of the recording apparatus”(13), which I think allows for a greater premising of the indexicality of the footage as holding as its referent the lived experience of the filmmaker. Many of the filmmakers Lane references “shot by themselves in available light and recorded sound at some time other than the moment of shooting”(13) – the former which I did, over the course of the spring, and the latter which I intend to do this fall as I edit the picture. I want to work in this “artisanal form of autobiographical expression”(13).

The piece, rapture, is about a great number of things. On one level, it is about a specific incident of personal injury that I incurred while walking along the former Berlin Wall, but it also seeks to more broadly address the sort of transformative experience of being in Europe this pass spring, and to that end, to address the very manner in which I remember/glorify/conceptualize that part of my (recent) past. It is psychology as well as abstract expressionism. It is about the subjective and constructed nature of history and memory, the way that always having a camera changes the world, the very real psychological strangeness of going from normal existence to suddenly being in shock with blooms of fatty tissue exploding from one’s palms. It is both a visceral experience and my own mediation and historicizing of that experience.

For those of us who regularly document our lives on film or video, the footage that we take is in some ways a visual manifestations of the thoughts we think when we are alone among the crowd of the world, and these thoughts compound to make up the history of our selves, our memories. So, because of my interest in film as an analog for and an exploration of memory, I employed the formal constraint of only using footage that was shot while abroad, restricting myself to a bank of personal archival footage that I am equating, conceptually, with malleable pieces of memory. The re-composition of these is itself an experiment in the construction of the past, through the literal process of editing this past into something of varying degrees representational and abstract.

The voice over is likewise restricted (as a further analog for drawing on memory) to selections from automatic writings I have done while in Europe and over the summer, rather like prose-poems; a means of furthering the psychological mimicry and individually subjective form of the constructed memory, drawing on my supposedly-subconscious mind’s outpourings, the products of experiments in extreme sleep deprivation.

The selections from the writings are each voiced by different people in my life, each narrator corresponding to a specific piece of writing, which I then intermixed in a way that again approximates the reconstruction of memory, but also invokes the way in which we as people are constructed by those that we love, and are moreover never the same person at any given point in time.

In terms of the editing style, I attempted to mirror the free-association of these patterns of thought, with occasional clear connections, and occasional moments of seemingly totally random mental jumps – varying degrees of jarring and fluid.

Three areas of inquiry that were central to the process:

What is the nature of memory? How do we construct it? How is it shaped by the records we take (personal photographs and videos, for example)?

How self-specific and revealing can I be without totaling confusing or alienating an audience, or on the other extreme, making them uncomfortable?

How can I add voice-over without over-determining the images or robbing them of their power to speak, and without speaking to them either too literally or too abstractly?

3 responses to “the rapture is finally here!

  1. Reaction after just watching the film yesterday and not reading the thing:

    I feel like this piece is intensely personal. So personal, in fact, that much of the meaning probably came from the process of creation rather than the final product. I recognize some references to events in your life that I know about, I empathize with some of the feelings, but a lot of the metaphors just go over my head because I don’t think quite how you do or I wasn’t there that one time when that thing happened.

    I’ve made a couple of movies that I felt great about when I made them, loved working on. Watching them now, I can see the person I once was reflected in them, but I don’t think other people would be able to get more than a glimmer. In each shot I see the half dozen changes I made to that point in the film, all the shots I didn’t use, and everything off camera from when I took the footage. All these memories come flooding back, and I remember what it was like to be the person who made this film. But I don’t think anyone else gets that.

    And honestly, I fucking love that. I love the idea that filmmaking can be such a personal process, and that (ahem) “the journey can be more important than the destination”. I love being able to remember my entire 2010 spring term by watching one 3 minute video. I think it’s a testament to the medium.

    That’s how I feel about Rapture: I feel like I’m looking inside Anna Swanson from 2011, but I don’t totally understand what I’m looking at. It’s like that old idea that some feelings you just can’t put in to words… It feels like you’re trying to put yourself into film, and while you’re getting closer than you could with any other medium, it’s still not possible to get it all. It’s missing a set of emotional triggers that only exist inside your head.

    It’s still really fun to peer in there, even if I only get little bits and pieces of the whole. It’s fun to try and puzzle out what was going through your mind at each step of the way – shooting, writing, editing. But I’ll never know the whole meaning.

    And honestly, I wish it was like 4 minutes shorter. But that’s probably because I have the attention span of someone who grew up on the internet.

    AFTER READING THE PROCESS: Looks like I was thinking about the same things you were when you conceptualized it. Sweet.

  2. Sam, As always, thanks for the incredibly thoughtful comment; I’m glad to hear you weren’t totally alienated by it, and I’ve definitely thought about it’s being too personal/specific in its meaning. I’m planning, as I said, to keep working on it, and hopefully I can find a more effective way to tap into the ‘set of emotional cues’ that you said it was missing – something I very much agree with.

  3. Will definitely need another viewing. The voice over at the beginning was very hard to catch (was that intentional?) and one of the voices sounded a bit like a sonambulist…

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