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La cognizione del calore

About this film

Memories. Some images - vague, blurred but nevertheless very present - of childhood, of a hot summer. Salvatore Insana’s La Cognizione evokes several feelings at once, and perhaps the idea of memory is strongest throughout the film. Or is it? Insana uses sound in a peculiar way, allowing it an almost hyperreal presence, rendering the images spooky, voyeuristic, but also intriguing and captivating. Through its hyperreal and yet vague aesthetics, Insana has created an impressive experimental, say experiential, film that will captivate your senses.

Nadin Mai (tao films)

Interview with the Director
Salvatore, I have seen several of your films now and they certainly stand out from the other films we have shown so far. Can you tell us what inspires you? Where do you get your ideas from?

I'm attracted to what remains poetic and divergent in our hyper-technological and anthropic world. I am drawn to the dynamics that pass between bodies and spaces. I find my point of reference in those who have done their search for a continuous struggle with the dominant aesthetic. The method is that, at different levels, of John Cage, Godard, Brakhage, Carmelo Bene, Marco Ferreri, but also that of Zavattini or Debord ... I look for what can not be seen, or, in what you see or you seem to know “too” well, I try to find the most corrosive and disarming elements, through de-structuring, sinking, drifting, perturbing the existing, through lateral movements.

I collect material almost daily. Ideas come from the observation, “participant looking” made of sudden illumination, unexplained impulses, propensity to converge and stir heterogeneous elements and distant universes. From here the attraction to the elusive, the impalpable, the “je ne sais quoi et le presque rien” mentioned by Jankelevitch.

I pay attention to the bodies, how they interact with animated forms and inanimate forms. And I try to animate the inanimate, if possible.

The geometry of space is fundamental, although in the last few years, it seems to me that I almost try to dive into the digital material of the film. I plunge into digital matter, and then the contours are lost, the sensations become more acute, the vision disappears. I lose sight of the geometry of the painting to “feel” stronger the power of the image.

And, basically, I seek and follow the light: that is the decisive element.

The sound is very important in your film. Although this might, technically, not be correct, I’d say that the sound almost feels tactile. Do you place specific emphasis on sound in your filmmaking process or is sound merely one of several tasks you’re interested in? I’m asking because the sound appears to have its own life, its own personality. I never experienced anything like it, if I’m honest.

Surely I pay attention to the sound. Going back to what John Cage said, just open your ears and be available to the discovery and to the hearing experience.

Sound is a constant presence in my work. In the almost total absence of dialogue or voice over, sound is the fundamental counterpoint to the visual, often the starting point for the final editing and is the founding element of what my work is supposed to be: mental habitats.

In this case I reworked what is the direct sound (with the beyond?). I emphasized the most sinister and mysterious elements, contributing to overturning the perception that there might be some images in the movie.

Several scenes in La Cognizione have a voyeuristic feel. At the same time, I could imagine them as memory vignettes. Is La Cognizione a collection of “mind images”?

In the film there is a contiguity, a space unit. It may not look like this, but I've filmed everything from the same window in the same moments. It is all about light (and darkness) if at the same time the presented worlds may be far away. As far as material research is concerned, I feel closer to the documentary film, perhaps the more diarist, rather than fiction or video art. I recall the melancholy sadness of the impossible recording of living life. And, of course, given the dynamics and the ways of resuming this work, here it is almost more than my life, that of the filmmaker rather than the one who is being recorded. We are both involved ....

But yes, all the frames are also mental images, which lead me to others as parallel correspondences that emerge from the past: I find what I unconsciously always keep looking for.

That kind of fence reminds me of the grassy knoll of Dallas, the one seen at the end of Zapruder's film about Kennedy's assassination. Those children, playful and plotting, remind me of Kenneth Anger's Rabbit's Moon. And even those half-naked bodies in the sun, blessed in search of tanning, soon turn into inhabitants of an infernal sauna.

Five minutes into the film, you suddenly cut the previously very present and outstanding sound. The film becomes spooky. It feels as if the film becomes a ghost. Not the images, not the now absent sound, but the film itself.

That the film is able to live with its own nature, shaky, panting, full of unexpected impulses and impulses, is a splendid concrete utopia. That place is loaded with ghosts. Of presence. What is now a public park was once a great psychiatric hospital in Collegno, near Turin. Perhaps ghosts have remained among those gardens. A mystical surplus is evident. And the cognition of extreme heat is one that leads to a dimension of alterity, life burned by life itself.

Can you tell us a little bit about your post-production process? I can imagine that the actual filming process for you is comparatively fast, but that most time goes into the post-production. Is this correct?

Not completely. For example, in the case of Cognition, as I had already experienced for the Notice of Storm (, I used a “stolen” lens from a theatrical projector, which manually handled, hand-crafted the focus. The shape distortions and colour rendering is what comes out of the shooting. Even the time dedicated to shooting is often the one of the breaks, the interstices of daily activity. But often it is this way: when you're there to do anything else, you realise the decisive epiphany. I’m speaking of fleeting moments, not predetermined, very important in their ephemeral being. Those bodies there could not wait for it to be taken, “recorded” and stored!

Post-production work then amplifies the same elements already present in the “production” phase, there are no further added effects. The focus is rather on the editing, the quarrelsome and risky concatenation of a frame with the next one.

You’re not the first experimental filmmaker from Italy whose work strikes me as something that isn’t easy to put into words. What is your perception of current Italian film in general, and experimental film in particular? Is there a strong generation at work right now?

In general, in Italy there is a very “reductionist” view of what cinema is. It's not much studied. There is a huge production of fiction work with a more or less standardised worldview that points to plot, small social emergencies, or technical virtuosity. As far as experimentation is concerned, there is a lot of isolation. You live as aliens. Starting from the paradox that the famous Centro Sperimentale di cinematrografia produces nothing really alternative to the existing and dominant aesthetic system, there is not much intergenerational support, and meeting opportunities to see the filmmakers’ work are limited. There are some works I have never been able to show in Italy. Anyway there is a lot of vivacity. There are single authors who often work in autarchy, angry, irreverent, desperate, with great awareness of what cinema has been and could be. And there are some brave and enduring festivals, such as Avvistamenti or Ibrida, and some independent distributors as Visualcontainer.

I’ve heard that there will be a small retrospective of your work on German television channel IKONO. This is great news. I love the channel very much. What other news can we expect from you in the near future?

One of my latest works, Crocevia, will be presented at the University of Valencia in September for The International Meeting of Video-Dance and Video-Performance. I continue my work with the collective Dehors/Audela, with whom I have been producing performances since 2011, including theatre, dance and live video. The next project, with the performer Elisa Turco Liveri and the music composer Giulia Vismara, will deal with the condition of the Fatigue.

Thank you very much for this interview.