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Serious Apparitions

About this film

A long shot. In the background, a chimney and a wind turbine on an otherwise deserted hilltop. Smoke appears on the left hand side of the frame. The sunshine that here and there breaks through the clouds of smoke create a fascinating, always changing shadow play on the hilltop. Observing the scenery, director Viktor Brim engages us in a contemplative take on what he himself describes as the “perceptual limits of watching moving images.” Brim visually describes a man-made environment, an industrial world that has shaped our natural environment and in which mechanics take over. And yet, Brim’s aesthetics remind us that regardless of our doings, time remains as it had always been: it creates space, it needs space, and it is time that is the main force in our life.

Nadin Mai (tao films)

Interview with the Director
Your film is a striking juxtaposition of nature and technology, perceived speed (that of technology) and contemplation (that of nature). Can you tell me a little bit about the origins of the film, the ideas behind it?

The idea was to deal with the landscape forms of the Ruhr area and to see which historical, technical, ecological and economic influences can be found in the layers of the landscape. I was interested in the structures and surfaces that characterise and make up this territory. It is very difficult to determine what is „nature“ here and what can be traced back to human influence.

Serious Apparitions consists of long static takes only. You never really move the camera, but record what you want the viewer to observe from a vantage point that allows us a comprehensive view on what is in front of us.

I was interested in the ambiguity and fictionalisation of the notion of landscape. The way we have been fictionalising landscape for centuries, especially in painting and photography. I wanted to contrast it with how we use and change it for monetary purposes.

In particular the shot when a freight train enters the frame, seen from above, I was reminded of the works of James Benning. I don’t know much of his work, but I have read quite a bit about it and for some reason Benning popped into my head when I saw your film. What are your influences?

Originally, I was influenced by fictional films, including Tsai Ming Liang, Apichatpong Weerasethakuhl, and Michelangelo Antonioni. I have always been interested in the borderline phenomena of narrative structures and their fluidity in relation to the documentary. Focusing on architectural spaces, atmospheres and intensities, created by sound, colours, shot sizes and surface structures of things or objects, led me to works by Yuri Ancarani, Lucien Castaing Tailor, Ben Rivers, Lois Patino and James Benning. I am interested in the expansion of the cinematic space in terms of its reception and its transforming character.

I would like to speak a little bit about the sound. I said earlier that your film was a juxtaposition of nature and technology. The industry that is, effectively, ruling (and ruining) our environment takes centre stage in your soundtrack. I wondered about the absence of the sound of nature...

I would not see the separation between technology and nature as strict here, but would rather plead for an interweaving. The sound in the film is completely designed for almost every shot. And the picture is also based on a clear fictionalisation through the framing, colour adjustments and montage. It was important for me to make the fictionalisation and creation also visible on the viewer level through seemingly clearly structured, quickly overseeable compositions. The sound level is largely defined by a technological and artificial background noise, which can be traced back to human influence. I was interested in the independence and interweaving of apparatuses and objects that can be traced back to human creation, as well as their extensive influence in territorial and auditory terms on the surrounding landscape.

In some ways, your contemplative images contain an urgency. I consider this film as an eye opener, and yet the film is so wonderfully calm that one could almost forget about the importance of the images you show. I’d like to ask you why you have chosen this contemplative style in order to speak of a rather urgent subject.

The absence of language or other informative aspects is related to the fact that I am particularly interested in the perceptual limits of watching moving images. When assembling several image contents, reception habits and viewing mechanisms are automatically used to categorize the image and establish connections. Using this setting, I wanted to place each image in a unit of time that has its own beginning and end without necessarily referring to the shot before or after as if you were looking at individual photographs for a certain time. I find this approach to places, objects or things exciting, as their coherence becomes apparent in terms of intensities the longer you look at them. Of course, I perceive this subjectively and at the same time the long attitudes allow the viewer an equally subjective impression, perhaps even soggy, as time creates a space.

You made Serious Apparitions as part of your studies at the Academy of Media Arts in Cologne. What other projects are you currently working on?

Serious apparitions was my first work where I started collecting tableaus dealing with intermediate forms of landscape and technology. My next work will continue this approach and will deal with the swollen industrial diamond mining in Yakutia, post-soviet relics and shamanic practices.

Thank you very much for this interview.