Of course, there’s also just the beauty of a shot of someone reading. I remember seeing the Super 8 diary films of Renate Sami in 2018 and there was a really amazing shot of a woman reading a book by a window, which I haven’t forgotten. Sami also has another great shot of a woman reading a newspaper in a cafe in Turin in her Cesare Pavese film (Cesare Pavese. Turin – Santo Stefano Belbo, 1984–85). I don’t think any of them involve her reading, but I made several visits to the Met’s show in 2014 or so of Cézanne’s portraits of his wife, usually seated in a chair, which also left a big mark.
Lukas: For me, a kind of image emerges here, perhaps something like a floating library, a constellation of texts, quotations, and recitations that encircle the films. In Classical Period, one of my favorites, reading becomes a central part of the plot that follows a group of literary scholars interpreting Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy (1321). What’s striking to me are the longer passages of collective reading, quietly and out loud. It feels like the Divine Comedy becomes a kind of architecture of the film; the protagonists seem stuck in the different Cantos, or the circles which Dante passes along its way through hell (Inferno) and purgatory (Purgatorio). Associating further, this constellation reminds me of an airport, where the characters are waiting to continue their journey, or at least waiting for a trajectory to emerge, though everyone seems to have a different destination. Where does this fascination with temporary or spatial architectures of transition or deferral come from?
Ted: It’s funny, I haven’t really thought of this the way you’ve described this, with the image of an airport, but it is useful for something related I’m thinking of now! So, thank you.
I’ve noticed I’ve been very into autobiographical readings of my films lately, so take this with a grain of salt, but maybe this interest is just a reflection of my life? This kind of narrative that doesn’t involve a strong and overt goal and maybe involves a degree of drifting and uncertainty definitely mirrors my own experiences to a large degree. But I’ve also always been more interested in character studies, and using the construct of a film to convey a personality somehow in the powerful and magnified way only film has.
So, whereas another film may focus on a character trying to achieve something and that is supposed to be really exciting to follow (and very often is!), I’m convinced there is also something exciting in smaller, less obviously intense moments. Or maybe they are more intense because not so overt?
Johanna: The way you describe the intensity of small moments that film can bring to life is very apt. It is conveyed through the observations that reveal your view on the protagonists, where the material of film itself also plays a role. Does the feel, color, and resistance of 16mm film material make the protagonists seem more tangible? Or put differently, to what extent does the material here condition your gaze?
Ted: This is oddly a central question but still very difficult to articulate. Kodak has a blog in which they try to promote movies shot on film, and I always find it funny the 1:1 effects filmmakers seem to imagine shooting on film will have on an audience. Of course, the material one chooses to work with influences both how one works and the aesthetic effect the work has. There’s a certain rhythm to shooting on film, a material limitation to how much film is in the camera, to how much film I can afford to purchase (often secondhand) and develop as a very low budget filmmaker, and there’s the limitation of how much I can even afford to print. These considerations inevitably inform how much I shoot, how many takes I do, and at the same time, since with the exception of a project I made in film school, I’ve shot everything on 16mm, I don’t think too consciously of this when I’m actually working, beyond practical questions like whether the ISO is fast enough for the lighting conditions.
There is a particular beauty to a projected film image that I find unique, and that does convey what was filmed in an intensified manner. I’d like to preserve this experience and aesthetic as much and as long as possible.
Lukas: This unique experience of the cinematic image, as a representation that is at the same time more and less than what the camera records, is something that resonates. While we, unfortunately, cannot be physically in your studio today, I’d be interested to hear what you currently have on your desk.
Ted: Two things. A notebook full of notes for a short film to be done in the fall with actors in Berlin. And, I’ve had a Bolex camera for a number of years, and during the summer of 2018, I filmed a small stone tower in Vermont while visiting a friend. I took another look at the roll in 2020, wanting to work on something during the first months where Outside Noise was finished but could not yet be shown. I decided to return to Vermont in September 2021 and film more, the tower again as well as two stone quarries and the mountains and valleys.
Not having an editing table here, I’ve improvised by borrowing some editing techniques from other filmmakers such as Robert Beavers, and I’ve begun to edit the five rolls of film I have from 2018 and 2021. I have a projector, rewinds, a splicer, and several pages of notes. I’m sorting through the footage, organizing the shots, and trying to see if there is a film in here. I may return to Vermont and film more this summer. It’s a completely different manner of working than in the past and could go in any number of directions. I haven’t recorded any sound yet, and that could present even further directions. For now, I’d like to use the images in a less literal way than they may initially appear, maybe to suggest something about the landscape and human intervention. But it’s still a bit too soon to say.