From (Being) To (Becoming)
An allegory used by André Bazin, the French film theorist and film critic, is a complement to the conventional concept of the screen in English. As an example, we say that a screen prevents insects from entering (filters) while at the same time allowing air to pass. In Bazin’s view, the director’s conscience filters the flow of facts in the audio-visual environment around us without altering it. A director selects systematically the subject, distance, angle of view, etc., so that certain streams of information are selected from among the masses that make up the audiovisual environment around us. Realistic filmmakers use screens with larger holes, while experimental and abstract filmmakers use screens with very small holes.
The director of the film Weathering Heights (2021) that screened in competition at the 68th International Short Film Festival Oberhausen, falls into the second category. In her story, Hannah Wiker Wikström creates a relationship between the world around her and the world outside of her, and she has designed the holes in her screen so perfectly that we find it difficult to be present inside her room.
This film incorporates a combination of the human voice, ambient sound, silence, and noise, making it one of the most important aesthetic points in the technical field of film. As a result of this combination of sound, the film has a polyphonic quality that is directly related to its central concept. What’s more, the language issue is very prominent here, as evident from the very limited amount of dialogue between the characters. A language that is spoken but not understood; a language that is felt but not realised.
There are also other outstanding technical features to the film, including its brilliant cinematography. The use of dark lighting, use of different lenses, and significant camera angles create a lot of blur and sharpness. Through the use of various shot sizes, from extreme long shots to very close close-up, the director shows that the mise-en-scène has a pervasive and existential approach. As such, it can be said that the art of compositing has given way to the skill of combining different layers of visual elements of the film, resulting in a single and deep effect. As the film moves forward, the camera, light, sound, actors, and set all move in the direction of the basic idea.
The multiple shots by low angle in the forest demonstrate the dominance of instinct and subconsciously direct the viewer to the chaotic setting. Nevertheless, the camera has a wandering, observant, rebellious soul that is familiar with nature and has taken on a subjective identity.
The film has a central sentence that reveals the philosophical aspect of it. It reads:
“what have we done wrong?”
The director never answers this question with words, but by putting the scenes together in a way that is answering it with other questions. She denies being and plots becoming. It is as if, as a result of being aware of this question, we can distance ourselves from what we were and move toward towards what we should be. The narrative’s circular structure also adds to the discussion.
In this film, time takes on a memorial or rotating identity that is in harmony with nature’s heart and with the instinctive world of the work. The sounds, people, spaces and places seen at the end of the film are seen again, but with a new cognition, and this cognition is crucial to moving from (being) to (becoming).
Keeping a rhythm while directing, the film has another important point to make. In order to create a meaningful process, the mind exerts control over the material being filmed. It creates an inseparable connection between the filmed material and human memory, and the mind is always aided by the instantaneous perception of what is seen and heard. The editing of the film does present this quite well, in a purposeful and strange arrangement of shots.
Last but not least, it is in this film that we see not only the personal world of the filmmaker, but also a world that seems to be taken from history, a world that is asking questions, and that is complex and philosophical.
Edited by Pamela Jahn
© FIPRESCI 2022