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film as process

Guy Sherwin’s Messages will screen at SODAS2123 - Vilnius, Vitebsko str. and in Nida (Lithuania) as a part of Suspaustas Laikas Experimental Cinema and Arts Festival

29/7 - SODAS2123, 19:00
6/8 - Nida, Evangelical Lutheran Church, 20:00

text by Miki Ambrózy

Where Do Ideas Come From?

Interview with film artist Guy Sherwin
July 2021

In Guy Sherwin’s film Messages different elements come together to activate a beautiful selection of cognition and sensing. Water, hands, warmth, wind, texture, material, shadow, paper. Messages lets us experience how images activate memory and how different layers of creativity form a holistic audiovisual experience. What traces or memories has the film left between filmmaker and subject – father and daughter? I conducted this interview remotely with Guy, who is currently in the editing phase of a new project.

Miki Ambrózy: In the context of Lithuania, there appears to be a mental division between cinema as industrywith the ambition for formatted narratives, and film as art or expression as practiced by artists of various backgrounds. Some key figures even talk about an antagonistic relationship.

When we met in Rotterdam in 2017, you suggested there are two ways of making films: the romantic and the unromantic way. Could you expand on how you see this now?

Guy Sherwin: As for romantic vs unromantic, this might be answered by asking “where do ideas come from?”. In my case there are ideas that arise from an engagement with the materials, processes and technology of film, from a curiosity about what this medium can do, what its core possibilities are.  

Then, there are conceptual ideas that arise from thoughts about time, movement, space, light and so on.

And there are ideas that arise from an engagement with the image. It is this last category which might be described as romantic. It seems almost impossible to describe our aesthetic response to an image - in much the way that all sensations such as taste or sound are hard to describe. In making films, what draws us to a particular image?

All the above have been starting points for my films, and some (maybe the more successful ones?) combine all three of the above categories. My silent films Short Film Series and the longer film Messages are examples.

MA: Is it fair to say "never make movies about children or animals unless it's a self-reflection on their relationship to the filmmaker and the world at large?" Perhaps it's the voice of you as a maker that creates the difference to the home movie. How do you think of this project with the lens of 2021's optics? Has anything changed in the way we relate to writing and learning?

GS: This suggestion seems about right. In any case, I might have misquoted. Perhaps it should have been “never make filmswith children or animals”. When you have expensive film stock running through the camera that’s easy to understand. With digital films it’s not a problem.

Messages will screen as a part of Suspaustas Laikas Experimental Film and Art Festival, courtesy of Light Cone.

1981-1983 / 16mm / b&w / silent / 24 ips / 35' 00

Messages was made over a 3 years period, when my daughter Maya was first learning to talk and write. A major source of inspiration for the film was Maya's curiosity about the world, beginning with questions to do with her perceptions of the physical world, ans as she got older, to do with social behaviour. These 'innocent' questions (apart from being almost impossible to answer) seemed to me to be of a philosophical order that challenged long-established truths. They made it clear to me that 'knowledge', acquired through language, obscures our ability to perceive. The pace of the film is slow, and the structure open-ended. Images progress through oblique association rather than linear sequence, enabling the viewer to reflect back to earlier images in the film, as well as drawing on personal childhood association (two aspects of memory are involved here). The implication is that each person's perception of the film is unique.
- Guy Sherwin