Ambiancé [trailer] – Anders Weberg (2016)

I’m not sure where, or how to start. Usually, those reviews always come with an intro, but how to introduce a seven-hour long-take? If I was asked to summarise the entire seven hours, I would, sadly enough, have to say that it’s about two people (artists Niclas Hallberg and Stina Pehrsdotter) who colour stones black and white on a beach, who often disappear from view only to come back a couple minutes later. Maybe I should also mention that the film also shows those two people putting wooden sticks into the beach sand. This is what really happens in the film, but it’s a crude version of what we see. Seeing does not necessarily mean making sense of something. Any synopsis would fail to get to the bottom of the trailer, and would, perhaps, only put people off. So maybe I should just describe what my mind saw, because this is much more intriguing than what my eyes were seeing.

I’m aware that I run the risk of completely misinterpreting the film. Perhaps what I saw wasn’t intended by Anders Weberg himself. On the other hand, I guess that Anders didn’t create closed-off meaning. Just like the 72min teaser, which I reviewed a while ago, this trailer is, to me at least, a medium to discover yourself. I can imagine that someone who watches the Ambiancé trailer probably sees something else that differs from what my own views. But this is the beauty of it. There is no right or wrong. It’s a kind of experience that expresses itself in thoughts.

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The seven-hour piece is carried by two performers, who do a wonderful job, and who made me wonder whether I was really seeing a film, or whether I was seeing a performance. Is the Ambiancé trailer a performance film? Where does “film” stop, and where does “performance” begin? Ambiancé blurs the line, and it’s for this reason that it’s a superb gallery piece. I wouldn’t want to watch it in a dark cinema, stuck in my seat for seven hours. I have experience with Lav Diaz’s long films, and they’re perfectly fine for cinema. The crux with Diaz’s films is that there is a heavy narrative, sometimes with a lot of dialogues which, after two or three hours, begin to unravel the entire narrative. It is important to stay with it. Anders’ work has a lofty nature to it. It was perfectly fine to take a break and get a coffee, digest the images I have seen, and then return to it. The film was running continuously, but I wasn’t always physically present. Being away from the screen from time to time actually helped me to make sense of what I saw. It gave me space (and time) to ponder the images (well there is only one image, but you know what I mean!!).

So what did my mind see? My eyes saw two performers. One of them was dressed in black, the other in white. My mind saw a dance between Life (white) and Death (black). At the beginning of the film, Anders highlights the words life, death, love, quest and escape. You could take it as something that only drags the film into an even more endless (slow) spectacle. But no, those five words are, in fact, what the film is about. If you really wanted a synopsis, then those are your words: life, death, love, quest and escape. The length of the film (and, in this case at least, also the length of the one take) reminded me of this intriguing part of my trauma research.

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In my thesis on the films of Lav Diaz, I argued that a representation of post-trauma wouldn’t have been possible to the same extent in a two-hour long film. Why not? Because two hours don’t give you enough screen time for an in-depth study of human psychology. Then I came across a five-hour theatre play about the Rwandan genocide, connected to the argument that society and culture impose restrictions on the representation of trauma. A trauma narrative has to have a beginning and an end, it needs to have a climax and a denouement. It shouldn’t be excessively long. It should give the main points, but no details. Those representations are always in favour of the traumatic event, but not of the psychology that follows.

Perhaps, we cannot speak of trauma in the case of Ambiancé. Perhaps we can. I don’t want to read something that isn’t necessarily there. But the trailer is definitely about human psychology; the psychology of loss, of grief, of struggle. The interaction between Black (death) and White (life) makes this absolutely clear. There is an instance when White puts a rope around Black, dragging him along, then sort of tying him up in such a way that Black can no longer move his arms. Life struggles with the presence of death, a presence we are actually fully aware of, but a presence we often suppress and deny. We try to restrict Death’s access to our being, because we’re scared of it.

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At a later point, White lays down in the middle of the frame while Black puts stones onto White. It looks and feels like a burial ritual. Death overcomes Life. But then there is Life enveloping Death with a piece of white cloth at a later stage, a sort of embrace. Death goes down on his knees, Life follows. They look at each other. The embrace is complete. This image of Life and Death looking intently at each other for a long time after their hours-long battle is a sign of acceptance. Life isn’t possible without Death, and vice versa. Both are part of our daily going-ons.

I know from my experience with post-trauma that our, at times excessive, fear of death can be crippling. I’m surely not the only one, who tried to tie down Death because I wanted Life. Years later I would learn to wrap this white cloth around Death and embrace it, which now allows me to live life to the fullest (at least according to my standards 🙂 ). I don’t think this film only appeals to me. I’m sure there are people, who have struggled with grief, for instance, who see a similar representation in Anders’ film.

There isn’t a lot in the trailer of Ambiancé, but that what is there is profound, and this is what counts. However, you need to allow your mind to wander. Don’t try to stop it from going places. In a way, I see Ambiancé as a form of meditation where you can discover yourself. But this will only happen, if you allow it to happen.

Ambiancé – Short trailer now online

A couple of weeks ago, I have written about Swedish artist Anders Weberg’s incredibly long 720h film Ambiancé. He was kind enough to give me access to the short trailer of it, which is 72 minutes long. I found it to be a very moving and stunning experience. You can read my thoughts on it here.

The short trailer is now online for the public to see. From 4 – 20 July you have the chance to watch the trailer and get a feeling for the overall project. It is an experimental film, so do not expect to encounter a straightforward narrative. Ambiancé deserves your full ignorance, if I may say so. Don’t expect anything, don’t try to make sense of it, and, most of all, do not try to interpret it. Just watch the trailer and see it for what it is.

According to Weberg himself, 280 hours of the final film are finished. The music comes from German composer Marsen Juhls. In his own words: “6 months ago today my son André took an overdose and died 21 years old. Much of my works over the years has centered around him. This is for him.”

You can find the Ambiancé trailer on Vimeo. If you want to share your thoughts on the film, you can do so in the comments.

Ambiancé (teaser) – Anders Weberg

You may ask yourself why I review a teaser. Teasers are short, and don’t give away a lot. In fact, Swedish artist Anders Weberg has released a very short teaser for his 720h film Ambiancé, which is due to premiere in December 2020. There is, however, a longer teaser, which lasts 72min, and somewhat defies the actual meaning of a teaser. Yet considering the length of the overall film, a 72min teaser is probably still extremely short.

For those who are not yet aware of Weberg’s project: Ambiancé will be his last film, the longest film ever made, at least this is how he himself advertises it. The film will run over the course of a whole month and will then be destroyed. Teasers and trailers will be released in the coming years. In 2016, Weberg will release a seven-and-a-half hour trailer. If you’re familiar with Lav Diaz’s films, this “trailer” shouldn’t be a big problem for you. Two years later, you will have to invest about ten hours more to see the second trailer of the film. It’s an endurance test, and for this reason somewhat more relevant to the research of Glyn Davis from Edinburgh University rather than my own. And yet, it somehow fits my work in some strange way.

Weberg’s Ambiancé is an experimental film. A lot of his short films can be seen on his Vimeo page, and if you click through those, you will get an idea of how the final product will eventually play out. Ambiancé is not exactly slow the way we define it in terms of slow film. But it’s a superb contemplative film. I was naive and thought that because I have the stamina to endure a Lav Diaz film, it would be easy for me to watch Ambiancé. I caught myself thinking about time, only to realise that it is not about time at all. If you’re interested in the subject matter, then an eight-hour Lav Diaz film isn’t going to be a problem for you. Watching this is not much different from watching a normal film, unless you make it different and repeatedly think about the length of the film. If you just follow the narrative, you will sometimes catch yourself thinking that the films are, in fact, very short.

It’s rather different with Ambiancé. I did stop the film after fifty minutes for a break. Strangely enough, I found the 72min teaser – in its own way – extremely moving. There’s no dialogue. It’s not a narrative film as such. It conveys everything through visuals, and these visuals are strong. I watched it a few weeks ago and I initially didn’t want to write about it, and I still find it difficult to do so because words cannot describe this piece. I’m not sure what the whole film will be about in the end, and no one will probably ever know because no one will ever be able to see the entire film unless you want to live off energy drinks for thirty days. It’s one of those gallery films that are, perhaps, not meant to be watched in its entirety.

With Ambiancé, I’d say that this is the case. You don’t even need to watch the whole thing. There is so much in only 72 minutes that the full 720h piece would probably blow your mind. I could be wrong, and it could merely be my own reading, but this film says a lot about emptiness, absence and sadness. It feels extremely personal and sometimes I wondered whether I was really meant to see it. There is nothing obscene, nothing violent, nothing shocking. And yet, I wanted to close my eyes from time to time. I’m not sure whether it was to savour the beauty of the images, or whether it was because I felt I shouldn’t see it. It was such a peculiar, and nevertheless rewarding experience.

I’m looking forward to the seven-and-a-half hour “trailer”, although I know that I will probably not watch the whole thing in one go. I always find myself struggling to digest Lav Diaz’s films. Weberg’s Ambiancé was a very similar challenge. I’m a visual person, and some images simply stick and I can’t get them out of my head. There are several scenes I still have in my head, playing out in slow motion, but I’m not even trying to describe them. I think it would ruin the film.

The 72 minute teaser will be made public in the summer. Then you can all see it for yourself. I will post the link here as soon as I have one.