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Ladder

About this film

An elderly man, alone, wakes up. He appears to be in a state of arrest. His movements are slow; he is sleepy. He is being drowned by something, something that weighs heavy on his shoulders. In one scene, we see a woman leaving the house with a suitcase. The house falls quiet, and it becomes clear what the weight on the man’s shoulder is. There is a profound sentiment of loss that Simo Ezoubeiri attempts to bring across in his film. The loss of a partner, through death of a break-up, causes a temporary stoppage of time and opens up a hole both in the person’s life and in the person itself. In long-takes which show the elderly man do nothing but idling, Ezoubeiri gets to the bottom of this sudden emptiness and loneliness, and lets us feel what it means to be left behind.

Nadin Mai (tao films)

Interview with the Director
Ladder is a meditation on loss that is set in motion by an elderly man being left by his wife. What moved you to make this film?

I was inspired by my parents’ love. The strength of their love inspired me to be curious about the loss of a such love. I was also moved by my late father, Lahcen Ezoubeiri’s performance, as he demonstrated what the loss of a such love would look like.

Your film is more than just a story about loss, though. I also see it as an hommage to your father.

My film is about the unique love I had for my father. It was an immortal love. He played extra roles in myriads of international films and he kept this passion private until his latest days when he played a small role in “Rock the Casbah” and shared the screen with Bill Murray. I remember when I was young, he introduced me to American classics and I even learned the iconic names of David Carradine, Clint Eastwood and Steve McQueen even before I knew the true meaning of cinema.

Your film captures the sudden hole that opens up when being left by a partner. There is this standstill. You wait, you ponder, you think. You perceive time as slow, almost as chewing gum, which you show in your film. At the same time, you hear a ticking clock in the background of some of your scenes. What I would like to know is what role do sound and time play in your films?

I am a true believer that sound is a great instrument when used in a film, to visualise what you envision and to communicate it to others. I was looking for the symmetry of two senses, seeing and hearing. The ticking clock in the background you hear in some of the interior scenes helped to stress the urgency of time versus the fixed position of the main character. In addition, the sound design comes initially from the internal vision, which is very closely connected with the way we dream. The soundscape created by sound designer Abdellatif Hamma encapsulates the world of “Ladder” and built an isolated world beyond the frame that is slow and cold.

In some ways the turtle which the elderly man takes with him on the rooftop is a nice image of how time is perceived as a result of loss. At the same time, it is a companion.

The turtle was a motif I used to express the stasis of the main character and let time settle itself. I was also thinking a lot of the idea of silence. The tangible silence in the man’s head, when words are not necessary is demonstrated by the quietness of the turtle.

You have returned to Morocco, your home, for this film. I find that this gives Ladder a special edge. I only need to think of the special colours when the man sits on a rooftop. But there is also a special soundscape, I find. Was that the intention behind going home, or did you feel that this particular film had to be made in Morocco, it couldn’t have been made anywhere else?

I am very familiar with the physical space of Marrakech. However, I was initially looking for a blueprint that represents my vision, my point of view in sound and picture. Then, I followed my bread crumb of my vision and decided to film it in Marrakech.

I know that you had difficulties showing your film in Morocco. Yet festivals all over the world have shown the film. Why do you think that is? I’m asking because this seems to be a pretty regular feature in filmmakers’ careers, the fact that their films are never or rarely shown in their own country of origin. Why do you think that is the case with your film?

I don’t know why. It could be that the film is overlooked or too familiar. All I know as an artist, you would like to be appreciated by your own country.

I saw a sort of follow-up to Ladder, which was assembled out of previously unused footage of what has become Ladder. What other projects are you working on at the moment?

Ladder explore the loss of love and facing reality after that loss. What I assume you are referring to, is my latest film “Speck of Dust” which explores individuals who are forgotten by society. It’s a different concept.

I'm currently working with Screenwriter Megan Armbruster for a new short called “Gone” that follows a family through the depth of dementia.

Thank you for this interview.