In the dark

The screen cuts to Richard Linklater’s editing suite where we catch a glimpse of the director fast forwarding and re-winding through a reel of footage from Boyhood.  He is giving his companion a glimpse into his then current project as it rounds the corner into its tenth year of filming.  The concept of striving to capture childhood is alluded to; as are the difficulties he had settling on one aspect of it on which to hone his efforts that consequently led to an unorthodox move for American cinema. He speaks of his relief that 35mm film is still around to see the project through to completion.  With the advent of digital film, he feared it would become extinct, presumably irrelevant, but clung on to the risky possibility of maintaining a consistent aesthetic throughout nonetheless.

His companion is fellow boundary-pushing outsider James Benning, and this is as technical as their discussions get. I’m in the audience for Double Play, a documentary following the reunion of the pair as they shoot some hoops in Linklater’s back yard, and the breeze as their conversation fast forwards and rewinds through their memories of falling into filmmaking and their respective pursuits and motivations that keep them at it. Both men are consumed by the idea of memory, and each orbits the shifting tides of time in unique, though surprisingly overlapping, ways. Quite literally in Benning’s case as we see him plant his camera along a lakeside for one of his many landscape based offerings on time’s passage in 13 Lakes.

I can’t claim to penetrate the precise meaning of their every exchange, but I could sit and listen to these two men all day. The gently spoken septuagenarian kitted out in denim from the ankles up reminding his younger peer that all of life is memory since the present has no definite dimensions to rely on; his middle-aged protégé of sorts extolling the virtues of cinema as the one reliable universe for all misfits unable to find their footing in the world; one that helps them to make sense of it. It’s how he himself stumbled into it – the mandatory viewings of four films in a row for the fugitive from his own surroundings. Stuck in a void. We’ve all been there. Haven’t we? It’s why I keep returning.

There is little sense to console the audience as we exit Melbourne later in the evening. Set in a single-location real-time Tehran on the day a couple prepares to emigrate to the film’s antipodean location, the consequences of an unscheduled favour holds the central characters and the audience hostage to an unbearable discovery. This self-assured, consummately acted Iranian drama, torments the couple with the senseless occurrences of life and the never-knowing what was within their control. The elusive dimensions of the present cheats them out of all certainty, and the future they’d banked on. Highly recommended.

It’s hard not to think of wise man Benning as I scan a few pages of Nicholas Felton’s Annual Reports the following morning.  Felton has been recording and compiling the minutiae of his daily life since 2005. A wet dream for any graphophile, they concisely break down his life in journeys, books read, films watched, times Bono cursed, photos taken, shits had, coffee outings gone on, and so on and so forth into the format global companies fawn over consultants to produce. The Felton Reports form part of the current Lifelogging exhibition at Dublin Science Gallery that includes some witty considerations on the dominance of social media in our lives, and its rise as a credible measure of our worth.


In eloving memory

Is the measured life a better life? Perhaps. But for all the breadth of biographical info, the emergence of patterns, the dimensions of activities and proclivities, it is one’s memory of those experiences that gives them their true meaning and measurement.

Image: Dublin Science Gallery.

For more info on the Lifelogging exhibition see here.

8 thoughts on “In the dark

  1. You should pop this on to the Okay, What If challenge. I agree, how can you live if you’re too busy recording.

    • Yup. The exhibition was also concerned with the growth in technologies that record the seemingly inconsequential and useless data of our daily lives. I get a little spooked if I think about it for very long. So I tend not to. Are you on twitter etc.? I’m neurotically private and wonder when the day will come when I’ll burn the blog down hehe. I must check out the prompt link, ta. I hover over those and freeze. What is it about group facilitators legging it from the group £:-$ Elvis does a double lip-curl in exasperation..

      • I do Twitter for work now and again. Obviously that is under a different persona. I did it for a wee while with blog until I noticed I was tweeting with wrong persona. Also panicked because a friend started following my blue birdie. See, she knows blue birdie has yet another persona. I was worried she might start reading my blog which would inhibit the honesty I sometimes post. Clearly I don’t have the bottle to go viral!!!

  2. I was tempted to watch boyhood today (and thought of your recommendation) but Les Miserable called me louder.
    I sometimes wonder if my children in years to come read some of my posts will they remember as I have, or will they wonder was I telling the truth. As you say, even children reared in the same house recall the years differently.

    • All that singing, tric. And Anne Hathaway. Are you OK? I think they’ve included a helpline number in the credits on the DVD version. That thing of collective and individual memory both fascinates and terrifies me. I had a conversation with my brother recently on childhood events and our respective takes were wildly different, which I half expected but couldn’t let sit. A session of ‘but..but but’ ensued 🙂

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