24 Frames – Abbas Kiarostami (2017)

One of the defining characteristics of Slow Cinema is that quite a number of films, in particular experimental films, question the difference between photography and cinema. Static art and moving image art interact and create a certain pull that only those films (can) have. At the beginning of 24 Frames, Abbas Kiarostami notes: “I always wonder to what extent the artist aims to depict the reality of a scene. Painters capture only one frame of reality and nothing before or after it.”

Moving images have helped make recorded life more realistic. I believe that almost everyone shares this opinion. Cinema had, originally, been hailed at creating an almost too real version of reality. Cinema had become an extension of photography. It can go further. Just the movement is enough to make us believe that what we see is real, or so it seems. Kiarostami, a photographer and filmmaker, blurred the line in many of his works, and therefore posed questions about the nature of both art forms. 

With 24 Frames, the question becomes even more urgent. 24 Frames is not so much a film. It is not photography either. It is a question. 24 questions, to be exact, that make us drift into reverie. Most of Kiarostami’s shots are wintry landscapes, like those of a dream land, a land far away, peaceful, yet menacing. Shots, static, that suggest death, lifelessness, silence, contemplation. But death suggests life. Every death creates life in another way. It’s an eternal cycle. Nothing ever dies completely. And so the scenery, the reveries, beautiful, penetrating like the eyes of family members in photographs from a different epoch, begins to move. Snow is falling. Snowflakes are blown towards us. The wind is howling. Deer are running through a prairie after a shot went off. A shot in the off. Far away, and yet very close. The peaceful scenery is disrupted. The shot irritates, shocks, upsets the stillness. The shock of a shot of a deer is almost traumatising. What has happened?

Is this real? Did we have a nightmare? Is this our unconsciousness speaking? Kiarostami’s world is imaginary. It is a journey, several journeys, triggers that make us think about the nature of an image. 24 Frames creates 24 frames of a shamanic journey you are taking with the director. Crows fill the frames, making one think of Hitchcock perhaps. But Kiarostami is different. This is no threat. Kiarostami’s crow is a spirit animal, a prophecy. Wisdom, transformation, the act of change. It is a mysterious creature which, in almost literal terms, transforms a photograph or a painting into a moving image. The crow makes us question, makes us wonder. It initiates a journey into ourselves.

The sea. Endless, raging, wild. But also cleansing. Kiarostami’s sea is an important destination of his journey into the unconsciousness. Rain is falling, the wind is howling. It is a menacing scenery, yet soothing. The sea – a place without limits, without barriers. A place that frees our mind, that allows us to sink into reverie and to go wherever we want to be. That, too, is a journey. A personal journey to a place where we think we have to be. Our journey becomes our destination.

We travel through memories. Can you remember the day we arrived in Paris? Everyone was there. Grandpa wore his nice suit and his hat. He wanted to put on his best clothes for our trip. Can you remember what’s happened to him? 

Static images, Kiarostami said, capture only a frame of reality. 24 Frames is a collection of 24 snippets, of 24 mind images, of 24 destinations on a journey that we’re gently taken on. We look through open windows, open doors. Vast landscapes and the sea are at our finger tips. 24 Frames is an invitation, it is a hand stretched out to us. “Come with me,” the film says. “Let me guide you.” There is no other film whose underlying openness is so vast, so liberating, so fascinating, so personal. The film doesn’t allow refusal. It is there to be journeyed with.

Sleep Has Her House – Scott Barley (2017)

!!! This film is now available on tao films till the end of March !!!

It took me a long time to decide whether I should be writing about this film. All films available on tao films are reviewed on this blog. But how do I even begin this with Scott Barley’s first feature film Sleep Has Her House?

Why is it so difficult for me to write about it? I have seen several overwhelming reviews of this film. Some people can put their experience of the film into words. I struggle with it. Maybe it’s because I experienced the film. Sleep has nothing to do with the intellect. There is nothing you can or even want to think about. When you see the first images, at the latest when you see the stunning waterfall – the camera zooms out slowly, carefully, to show the full beauty of it – then all you want is for Barley to take you on a journey. And he does.

I do not want to describe what’s happening in the film. I don’t want to describe the images. Rather, I’m going to break the rules for my blog and tell you an anecdote instead.

Last year, I went on two shamanic journeys. One of them was a follow-up to a journey I undertook in 2015 (if you’re reading this, John: thank you!). The aim was to find my power animal. These two journeys were very intense, especially visually. Everything looked underexposed and yet I could see clearly. That translated into sensations. I felt those two journeys. I felt my standing in a dark cave watching a deer. I also felt my watching a river. I didn’t see myself there. I was actually there, I felt my presence in this different world.

Barley’s Sleep Has Her House silenced me the day I saw it. I couldn’t bring more over my lips than “I really like it”. What I noticed was that Sleep is part of my shamanic journeys. The images, the sounds – they have a resemblance to my journey. No, Sleep isn’t my shamanic journey on screen. But it is so close that it frightened me on the one hand, and on the other I suddenly had the feeling that a director who doesn’t know me, a director whom I have never met in real life, knows my soul.

Sleep is a film that goes deep, very deep. It is not just a film. It is not just visuals. And it is not just a combination of visuals and sound. It is a journey. It is an experience. It digs deep into your soul, into your dreams. It takes you into another world, into the underworld, but it’s not a scary journey at all. On the contrary, Barley is always there with you. You’re never really on your own.

Barley’s film is certainly the strongest film I have seen in years. There have been many films which touched me, but not in the same way. Sleep stands out. This is as far as my words can take it. All I can do now is strongly recommending the film. Words cannot adequately translate experience. You naturally lose most of that experience because you try to find words for something that has no words. So please watch the film, and experience this magnificent journey Barley takes you on.