Saturday, 10 March 2012

Gitte’s Nose; representing the passing of time in cinema.

The events recorded in “Tatsuko” take place over the course of about a year. This time-frame is essential; it is one of the reasons I was so drawn to the original source material in the first place. My task is to convey this fact to the audience, through a series of signifiers, without falling into the trap of over emphasis.
Silent films inserted caption cards into the scenario, rather like chapter headings, white lettering on black guiding the audience in time to ‘one week later’; ‘three months later’.
Then visual signifiers developed –notably the curtain blown by the wind to indicate time passing during a scene of love-making [perhaps as little as four minutes?]
In the 1930’s and 40’s the hourglass and the clock marked the passing of minutes or hours; the calendar, its leaves being torn away, or the diary, its  pages being turned or blown into deep space, indicated the passing of months and years.
A voice-over was deemed necessary to impart chronology in Kubrick’s “The Killing”, but which served the material poorly, reducing a film with an interesting visual structure to the level of a B-movie which didnt trust its audience.
The character – his clean shaven face developing a beard became a standby of the testosterone –driven war film which followed troops through a gruelling campaign. As it is important for the atmosphere of my film that one sees nothing of the stranger’s face, this was not an option here.
I confess my favourite cinematic sundial can be found in a 1970’s film by Roman Polanski; possibly the best of any of America’s forays into  film noir. In “Chinatown”,
J.J. Gitte’s nose is a wonderfully original indicator of time passing. It begins unsullied, is then slashed by a [rather short] ‘heavy’. Thereafter, time is measured visually from almost full-face gauze mask with adhesive plaster covering, through diminishing sizes of dressings, to revealed stitches…
No opportunity for such a bravura concept presented itself here, perhaps for another project…

I was looking for a structure less obtrusive, something in keeping with the visual style and which might simultaneously work on a second level.
The time passing in “Tatsuko” is measured en passant by shots of tree foliage through windows, and by the wildlife which captures the stranger’s attention. A Pied Wagtail, its striking plumage fluffed up against the bitter cold of winter. The Spotted Flycatcher, a spring visitor gathering nesting material. The Small Copper butterfly of high summer [seen through the intruder’s eyes; one of the shots which reveals a thoughtful rather than a brutal nature]. The autumn/winter flocking of Lapwings to the area. I am assuming that most of the audience for this film are sufficiently in tune with their natural environment to register these indicators subliminally and accept that they have been guided through a year, over the course of the 40 minute running time. The second level at which these indicators should work relates to their situation. They are on the other side of glass; free. Though the stranger has entered the house and is staying of his own volition, all indications suggest that he is locked in through the day when his host is away from base, watching the birds insects and trees beyond the pane…

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