09 Feb 2016
All Films Are Fictions
There is a scene in Michael Curtiz’s The Sea Wolf (1941) where the character ‘Wolf’ Larsen (played by Edward G. Robinson) exchanged some very intriguing lines with Humphrey Van Weyden (played by Alexander Knox):
“… what kind of books do you write?
“All sorts of fiction…”
“Fiction? Nothing important?”
There is a pause .
Point 1: I have always been mesmerized by how Cinema functions and what the inner workings of this grand machine are. I am still processing what Cinema is.
Point 2: I am constantly asked why my films are so far from reality. Why don’t they address socio-political factors of human societies; I am asked to express how these films comment on our daily lives and how can an audience possibly relate to them. I always respond saying “I don’t know. What do you think?” I have always preferred to explore a different type of dramaturgy.
Point 3: The idea of fiction in Cinema (and art in general) is something that has always interested and fascinated me. It must be utterly fictitious, 100% fabricated and thoughtfully constructed by the creator. This quote by James Benning is brilliant: “this is my only vote: an amazing document of bad acting. And, I might add, all films are fictions.”
Point 4: Due to the nature of Iranian society, which was a product of governmental conditions, I preferred to function as privately as possible, working entirely in the margins. Furthermore, when I was making films I could not tolerate any social interaction at all. Later when I moved to Ireland I found myself in a similar situation. I immediately became an outsider, for an immigrant and tackling a new language, and also for the culture I was pursuing (underground and avant-garde cinema). I had positioned myself twofold into a place of alienation. I included this atmosphere in my work, creating my own personal universe and in a sense constructed a means of surviving this alienation, through cinema. The making of such work was not a choice but perhaps the only way I could survive without going insane. Though this is my own fault and my own choice I look at the films made by my fellow colleagues of Experimental Film Society and I see similar qualities of atmosphere. I see not only several shared preoccupations but also a complimentary response from those working from the outskirts, looking in. It is not simply seeing a district, country, continent or planet from a certain perspective but seeing cinema in that way. So I ask myself the question: why is it so hard to get our films distributed and shown in cinemas? The answer is very simple, we don’t comment on the many problems of the world and the direct issues around us. We do not film the disadvantaged in any direct or parallel manner, and the taglines of our films will certainly not be found scrolling across a banner on a news station, at least unless the very world ends, even then something else would better fit. Our films are sensory objects and therefore experiencing them from start to finish with an open mind is the most important factor. There has always been a sense of tension from the commercial remit and the so-called ‘art world’. None of us not want to be an enfant terrible of any kind, and yet there is hostility from all sides. We are all in exile.
Point 5: As I said before, I truly like to turn negativity into a source of positive energy and feed that into my work and other EFS projects. Even if I fail (and there is always a chance that your films are simply failures) I still enjoy working none-stop. I am writing this now because of a wonderful piece from the late Jacques Rivette:
“I no longer wanted to make films, which related to the sociological reality of the day, films which were directly or indirectly attuned to the reality in France in the 1970s. I don’t think I was alone in that. After ’68 there were some people who joined various left wing or extreme right wing movements and others, which was more my reaction, who grew disinterested, not with everything that was happening, but still I didn’t want to talk about it in my films. So Celine and Julie Go Boating, Duelle, Noroît and Merry-Go-Round are films, which flirt more with fiction and move more towards ideas of… it wasn’t about creating a dream world. It was about fiction taking directions, which departed from reality and strayed into fantasy. It wasn’t my intention to create a dream world. All films are dreamlike. It has been accepted for a while now that Hitchcock’s films are actually constructed like dreams in the way that the action unfolds, even those in which there are no fantasy and psychological elements. So it was this idea of giving the fiction more free rein rather than confiding it to the social-realist context of the time.”
– The Parallel Life, A Portrait of Jacques Rivette, 1990 (an interview by Norbert Jochum and and Karlheinz Oplustil)
Thanks to Dean Kavanagh