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Du côté de la réalité immédiate

About this film

We live in a time of urgency. Of speed. Of mass information. Of algorithms. What does it do to us, to our lives, to our social contacts, and what will the future bring? French filmmaker Pierre Villemin explores those questions in his excellent experimental film Du côté de la réalité immédiate. In a voice-over that represents a haunting urgency - soft but demanding at the same time - Villemin poses questions that concern all of us. Subjects as large as humanity, or as comparatively small as our daily use of Facebook, play an essential role in the director’s investigation of our 21st century malaise. Juxtaposed with curious, engaging images that make you think, Du côté is a double-edged film that invites the viewer to pose questions, to find answers, to think about the world we live in and to reflect on ourselves.

Nadin Mai (tao films)

Interview with the Director
Pierre, your short film is a complex piece with several layers to which you persistently add over the course of the 35 minutes running time. I would like to know what the starting point for the film was. What made you make Du côté de la réalité immédiate?

The origins of this film stem from the urgency I feel to express my anger at a series of pessimistic news from around the world, which I had read on Facebook and in the printing press in November 2016. I also discovered the writings of Bernard Stiegler, who offers a point-of-view that it at once analytical and philosophical about new technologies, and who writes about subjects such as social media addiction. I started to collect several texts, those I had already known such as those by Noam Chomsky, interviews with Pierre Rabhi and Claude Bourguignon that I had recently discovered, publications by Tristan Harris, the novel Dans les forêts de Sibérie by Sylvain Tesson... and then there is this interview with the Roswell alien, which I had found online. It’s a document that had long been kept secret by the US Air Force. Mathilda O’Donnel McElroy, a nurse, was able to communicate with the alien of Roswell via telepathy. She wrote a transcript of it, which had been kept secret for a long time, but which made its way into the public a couple of years ago. I consider McElroy’s transcript a fairytale that gives us a version of the origins of our world. It is a poetic take-off which allows to leave the harsh truths spoken without restraint behind at the end of the film, and to open our eyes towards new horizons. Some viewers were shocked by those passages because of their anachronistic aspect. Others understood and appreciated this narrative u-turn which I considered essential for a better understanding of the film.

Du côté can perhaps be described as speaking about our social malaise, about our current struggles. But it also feels like a very personal film full of anger.

The way of appropriating the thoughts of others, the way of assembling texts, expresses best what I could say myself, but I am not able to write as delicately as thinkers, philosophers, writers, even agronomists.

What struck me in your film is the lack of coherence between image and text. I found this very intriguing, it’s something that had me really engaged in both the film and the broader subject matter. Why have you chosen not to show what you were speaking about but rather confront the viewer with disparate images?

This is the whole point of the film: showing without telling. To tell a story with images that seems to differ from that told by the voice-over. To create a discrepancy, because everything that is said in the film is very pessimistic, so the images very much move into the opposite direction. A direction that is more poetic, free and that appeals to the imagination of the viewer. I captivate the viewer with the images and a soundtrack composed by Gilles Sornette. The voice-over alone would probably turn away the viewer.

The way you worked with the images is interesting. There are superimpositions, which give way to magnificent, at times mind-bending images. But what I found most interesting are, for example, the images at the beginning. I wasn’t sure whether they were photographs or slow-moving images.

The images at the beginning of the film, just like 60% of the entire film, has been shot with an iPhone 4S. It’s a collection of images taken by accident during my car trips, especially when it was raining and the raindrops ran down the windows, which I love particularly, because it creates a sensation of imprisonment or filtering.

Your film has a certain educational edge to it. It is not a film that you can just let wash over you. It is something that makes you think, ponder, reflect about where we, as individuals and as societies, are just now. This makes me wonder what your goal in filmmaking is. What does filmmaking mean to you, what does it stand for?

When one leaves the cinema, I would like it, like all filmmakers too, if the film continues to play in the mind of the viewer; that slowly the images and the sound persist in the viewers’ memories and that it does its work in the mind of the viewer even months after s/he has seen the film.

In December, we showed your film Memoire Carbone, in which you used a voice over, just like you do in Du côté. Personally, I find voice-overs intriguing. There is this play between absence and presence, but there is also some sort of guidance. Why do you use voice-overs in your film? Is it something you use in all of your films?

The voice-over, or the internal voice, is a manifestation of a thought but also an oral vibration similar to a chant, which slowly sinks in. It’s something I use very often. It is a spoken film, if you wish. For me, everything is complete when a voice accompanies the audio-visual montage. The film speaks as though it has its own life.

I can imagine that your working on a new project at the moment. What plans do you have for 2018?

Right now, I’m working on a film in which there are only images and sound, or experimental music. No voice at all! I wanted to immerse myself in the images which I have been recording for about a year, and dive into the heart of what motivates me most: to capture the particular light at certain moments in the nature that surrounds me.

This film, Chronophobie, is a journey through landscapes where swift visions cross one another, sometimes close to a sort of animated photograph which describes best this desire to immerse. Of course, there is a desire for music as well. Thanks to Bandcamp, I have discovered a whole range of independent music which I hadn’t been aware of before. I have contacted several artists: from the US, from Norway, Bulgaria and also from France. I asked them for their permission to use their music in my film. As I have done with my texts in Du côté de la réalité immédiate, I have created a soundtrack that accompanies my images.

Many thanks for this interview.