Eduardo Ego interviews Edgar Pêra about KINORAMA – BEYOND THE WALLS OF CINEMA/KINORAMA – CINEMA FORA DE ÓRBITA . Translation Luísa Ramos
Eduardo Ego: Thank you so much for your time, I know you are very busy. What are you working on at the moment?
Edgar Pêra: So many things, I suffer from an atrocious artistic incontinence. I have less and less dead time. Besides the small films I make for my cine-maintenance, i.e. films that are steps to others (by the way, these are the only films of mine that I consider experimental), I am frantically preparing a grandiose Pessoan adventure, a schizo-thriller feature called Não Sou Nada/The Nothingness Club and, at the same time, shooting and editing Kinorama – Beyond The Walls Of The Real.
Does this “Beyond the Walls of Real” has anything to do with H. P. Lovecraft’s short-story “Beyond the Walls of Sleep”?
EP: You are a very shrewd interviewer…something that is more and more unusual in the profession…Yes, it is indeed a reference to the work of that great writer. The film has in many ways a direct relation to Lovecraft. The participation of S. T. Joshi – the most renowned expert in Lovecraft in the world – in the film underlines the importance I give to that author in Kinorama and in other films of mine where I used excerpts of his work.
EE: And what is Kinorama about?
EP: How can I describe this film that is still in the make? I can start by saying what it is not: it is no longer the work in progress version shown at the Rotterdam Film Festival. Except for the interviews, that version was essentially made of images from some of my films. It made sense then, as it was presented in the ambit of my retrofuturospektive, but after the screening, that was open to the public, I decided to rethink all the variables in the film.
EE: Maybe we should start at the beginning…
EP: Right. Although it’s always very difficult to determine where the beginning is. Initially the film was called Beyond the Walls of Real and started by being a follow-up of the film-thesis I made for my PhD in Cinema, The Amazed Spectator. After the première, also at the IFFR, I sent the film to some authors whose books are of particular interest to me. I am talking about J. F. Martel (Reclaiming Art in the Age of Artifice) Justin Brecese (Out of our depth: hyper-extensionality and the return of three-dimensional media) Michele Aaron (Death and the Moving Image – Ideology, Iconography and I ) Jan Distelmeyer (Über – und eisnsichten. Fragen zum d3d-dispositiv) , S.T. Joshi (The Annotated H.P. Lovecraft), Robert Spadoni (Uncanny Bodies – The Coming of sound film and the origins of the Horror Genre), Rachel Moore (Savage Theory – Cinema as Modern Magic).
I interviewed all of these authors by Skype and then selected and aligned their answers to obtain a harmonious ensemble that could take the spectator into new territories, beyond the movie theaters or the screening rooms. After making this first selection I also decided to include some considerations they make on my own work. This led to the choice of some images from other films of mine that end up contaminating the images of the interviews. This is why I added Kinorama to the title, with a parenthesis (Self-Propaganda Proto-Mix), because it was in fact a propaganda session within the retrofuturospektive of my work.
EE: How did the festival’s audience react to the proto-edit of Kinorama?
EP: It was very interesting; it proved once more that opinions and criticism say more about the spectators than about the films themselves. Some people were confused by the bombardment with continuous verbal and visual information, other considered that simultaneity of visual and sound proposals a stimulus and a challenge.
EE: Why the insistence on solarized images and on the inversion of colours?
EP: Kinorama is a spectral film. At a given moment J. F. Martel talks about the spectral as a “Negative Ecstasy”. He says that the way we experience social media is spectral, that we are not represented, only our spectres are there. Although this is not the reasoning behind my decision to manipulate the images of the film, the truth is that there is a synchronicity between Martel’s thoughts and my own. On the other hand, the visual aesthetics of Kinorama comes from previous research, mainly from Lisbon Revisited, the film where I take to the limit the exploration of the voyeurism/exhibitionism in 3D, where the colour reversal emphasize the artificiality of this format, without loosing its immersive aspect. The more three-dimensional moments provoke amazement in the spectator and, in that sense, Lisbon Revisited is the film that addresses more directly the “amazed spectator”. Kinorama conjugates this element of awe from Lisbon Revisited -the colours and the three dimensionality of some scenes- with a theoretical research on some subjects I wanted to develop.
EE: But what is the film really about?
EP: That’s an excellent question to which I don’t have a straight answer. I could start by saying that I am the subject of the film, which is true in a certain way, although that is also true of other films that don’t have, like this one, the leitmotif of the Man-Kamera’s shadow. On the other hand, there is in Kinorama something symbiotic with Lovecraft. * We always hear the same voice –that of Keith Esher Davis- saying Lovecraft’s texts as well as asking my questions. But the film doesn’t boil down to that because I give voice to many people that reflect on the role of the spectator and on the role of art in general, of Cinema in particular, with an emphasis on the specific case of 3D cinema. I was interested in discussing the alternative 3D cinema that exists in the counter-currents of traditional filmmaking, be it Hollywood or any other conventional narrative cinema. There are many ingredients in this film; they go from the Filmmaker (and Film critic) as Shaman to the “stupid sacredness” of Cinema, or the importance of 3D and VR to the creation of connexions with physical reality, as well as the function of art in our societies. These and other subjects, and despite their relation to the spectator and cinema, are always seen from the optic of a cinema that has been removed from the movie theatre. Cinema has left its normal orbit and is on a collision course with reality. (Many) Films are currently outside the movie theatre circuit and Kinorama reflects on this condition, through interviews or images shot in varied and unexpected contexts.
EE: But I heard some rumours about the return of those legendary creatures, the Kryptoceluloids…
EP: But you are very well informed, young man. Yes, I had the idea of bringing to Kinorama some chameleonic beings that go by the name of Kryptoceluloids. The Kryptoceluloids suck in reality and expel it in the form of film. They were created and shot to be shown as video stills in the pages of The Independent, a weekly newspaper that existed in the 1980s in Portugal. But they rapidly became the subject of a film project (The Saga of the Kryptoceluloids) that never saw the light of day. It was only in 2012, when we shot the movie Cinesapiens −part of the 3X3D triptych – at Guimarães, with Bando à Parte, that these beings first materialized. In Kinorama, the Kryptoceluloids resurfaced as people that have monitors instead of heads. And these monitors become talking heads that give voice and face to the interviewees.
EE: That reminds me of some sci-fi characters like Prince Robot, of the comic book Saga…
EP: Say no more! I’m surprised that you have detected the coincidence. But I was even more surprised when I heard that in Japan some people are carrying monitors on caskets on their heads, people that the fathers send to their son’s games so they can see their kids playing while working at the office. These are the real Kryptoceluloids! Kinorama, being a 3D film, brings out the contrast between the three dimensionality of the Kryptoceluloids (interpreted by João Sodré, Miguel Borges, Ana Bustorff and others) and the 2D images of the interviews. The 3D effect expands the images originally shot in a two dimensional format.
EE: And why this persistence on the 3D format?
EP: Well, I think the best way to explain this is to cite myself: in Kinorama, Michele Aaron asks me why I like so much to film in 3D and I reply “I think I need a novelty once in a while, something I can play with, so that when I look through the camera it is as if I am filming for the very first time. I like to be surprised and 3D still amazes me. Years ago I used Super 8 a lot because it had like a surprise effect in reverse, it felt like going back in time. Super 8 is a medium that is instantly nostalgic, the images transport you to the past, while the 3D images still look like they’re coming from the future, mostly because they are not formatted and use unconventional exhibition mechanisms.
EE: What you’ve just said doesn’t coincide with what you said in the film. There is a dose of revisionism in this statement.
EP: (annoyed) How did you have access to the film? I didn’t see you at the Rotterdam screening!
EE (ironic): Are you sure about that?
EP (doubly ironic): Your figure stands out, my dear Ego.
EE (extremely ironic): Let’s say I have friends in high places to whom I made an irrefutable proposition…
EP (condescending): Well, well…We don’t have to argue about this. I confess that the translation is slightly different, that’s something I usually do with the translation of my films. There are times when you have versions, more that translations. I interpret and recreate the texts in the subtitles.
EE: So, just like George Lucas, you are an adept of revisionism?
EP: Yes, that’s true. If I am able to change a detail in a film that I find unsatisfactory, I do it. I totally understand filmmakers like Lucas that repeatedly remake the same film. This brings to mind an interview with George Lucas, made in the beginning of the 1990s, when he was asked what his biggest desire was, and he answered “infinite storage”. Infinite storage in order to have access to everything at the same time, that’s the utopia of the cine-archivist. It was this obsession with archiving that led to the Kino-Pop Archives series, about the rock bands in Portugal in the 1980s. But this I learned from my dad, not George Lucas.
EE: And what do you say about this obsession with Cine and Kino? Kinorama, Kino-Pop Archives, and the TV series on Comics that you are working on, Cinekomix.
EP: I like this interpenetration of the titles as well as of different materials from my films. For instance, I have a film called Visions of Madredeus, another called Visions, Equations and Radyations, another called Virtual Visions and yet another called The Visions of Mr. Ego. I also like to repeat some texts in different films because they acquire new meanings in relation to the different images and sounds. For instance, there are texts by Fernando Pessoa that appear in Zombietown23, Lisbon Revisited, Magnetick Pathways and now in The Nothingness Club. I could have chosen other texts, from the many Pessoa wrote. But despite being the same texts they acquire different meanings. The emotions and sensations the spectators feel about the same text are different if the text is interpreted in different ways or in different contexts. I like to show the multiplying effect of Cinema.
EE: In which phase is Kinorama at this moment?
EP: It’s in the three phases simultaneously: shooting, editing, script. Not necessarily in this order. In a few days I’ll be showing a proto-edit to Olaf Möler, who has already participated in The Amazed Spectator and is the person behind the retrospectives of my work at IndieLisboa and Rotterdam. After the screening I’m going to film Olaf talking about Kinorama and then I will incorporate some of those comments in the editing, in a process that is similar to the snake that eats its own tail. It’s a spiralling method.
EE: Don’t you worry about going insane with this working method?
EP: No, on the contrary, I’m afraid I will go mad if I am not allowed to use this method. Fortunately I have the conditions to work in this fashion, very much like a painter works on several paintings at the same time, leaving one to work on another. When he goes back to the first painting he has already gained some distance that allows him to know how to proceed.
EE: Let’s talk about Magnetick Pathways: Why this fixation on following your own path, which is almost certainly harsher, with many more obstacles?
EP: It’s my GPS showing the way. Branquinho da Fonseca wrote that each of us has his own compass. We choose our own way and mine very rarely takes the highway.
(To be kontinued)
Interview made at the Neurolab at Kalvário. Eduardo Ego travelled courtesy of Bando À Parte. Originally published in Argumento magazine.