The Glasshouse filmmaker Danielle de Picciotto on the destructive power of fear
For the Denver date, you're working with David Eugene Edwards of Wovenhand. How did that collaboration come together and why did you want to work with him?
AH: I've been a great fan of his work for decades. Maybe fifteen years ago or so, I was asked by his then-manager to play bass in 16 Horsepower. That manager sent that e-mail with his e-mail program that set it to the wrong date, like ten years earlier. So I received it at the very bottom of my e-mail list, so I never got the request.
Anyway, we made friends over the last couple of years, and we've just been working together these last couple of weeks because David has been playing in the new incarnation of Crime and the City Solution. He's great at improvisation, and he has a really good feel for atmosphere, so we're really looking forward to this.
DD: We have a history of inviting guest musicians to various projects, and we're basically always looking for people to ask who are special in some way. I mean, there are a lot of great musicians, but we always kind of ask people that play unusual instruments, because both of us like that very much, or have an unusual sound. David, for me, what I love about Wovenhand is that it has a kind of voodoo atmosphere. He has this kind of drone feeling to it. He has a hurdy-gurdy that I love, so I'm kind of hoping he's going to bring along. Besides him being a fantastic musician, that's why I was interested in having him participate. Sound-wise, I think he'll be able to make noises a lot of people wouldn't be able to with the guitar and with the hurdy-gurdy, or even his voice. He comes up with fantastic sounds.
Steve Forker we asked because we always wanted to play with someone who plays trumpet. For this piece, I think it's especially great for specific scenes for someone that can play that. As he can play different variations of it, I'm curious to see what he will come up with. We have a prepared, basic soundtrack to which our guest musicians can prepare their own ideas. We never tell people to play a preconceived melody. That way, we can also surprise ourselves with what will happen. We sent them the whole movie and asked them to prepare.
What does the format of the silent movie allow you to express that a more conventional modern cinematic form does not?
DD: I like putting odd things together. I like putting together people who have different tastes or come from different countries or are working with mediums that usually don't belong together. Because if you put things together that are not already in one specific set, something is going to happen by them coming together which is unexpected and new. The silent movie does not have a soundtrack, so you only have visuals. If you add music to it, live music and live spoken word, it will be different every time. Because of that, it will create a magic story of its own every single time you perform it. So for a performance, obviously, I find a silent movie much more interesting.
AH: It's more like a freeform template to start out with. The human senses are very easily fooled. We cannot really rely or be certain of the things we see and even less of the things that we hear. Combining silent images with sound opens a whole new spectrum for interpretation and for association and metaphors. Of course, you know, you can talk about how we are all being manipulated by the media and by now we are trained to be aware that we are very awake and that we listen very closely to what we hear along with what we see and we analyze these things. So starting out with a fairly open concept by having no obvious relationship between the visual and audible elements, it's just a great canvas in order to pull into very extreme directions.
DD: It's kind of like making magic.
Absolutely, it's like alchemy.
DD: Exactly. We're going to be recording every performance with every guest musician and we're trying to release a CD/DVD with basically the different soundtracks you can listen to while watching the movie. That's going to come out when we've toured with it long enough to have a lot of interesting variations.
How did you shoot or create the footage for the film and does it follow any sort of narrative informed by your experiences or is it may a more experiential work?
DD: I was working with Super-8 for almost twenty years. Alexander and I have been nomads for two years and traveling all over the world. When I was putting my stuff together to put into storage, I digitalized all of my Super-8 footage, which I'd been wanting to do for a long time but never found the time to do. So I had all that footage and I'd been wanting to do an experimental, silent movie for a very long time with that footage.
So I was thinking what I was going to do and that story was always in my mind. Moving to a new continent and becoming an ex-pat completely changes your life. And to have the evening before that change happens as dramatic as the one I experienced always stuck in my mind. Because I do feel it was the beginnings of this fear and how this fear has changed and become larger and enveloped our whole world, I thought it would be interesting to do something now with all that old film footage together with that story. It mixes the past and present together.
AH: And processed it with technologies that weren't available at the time.
DD: It's very abstract. Some of it is actual film clips from back then from the city. But others are things are things I filmed which are art-related.