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Time.Place.Space

About this film

Film is a time-based medium, a medium that is constructed through time, but also through space and place. Those three elements are fundamental to any cinematic creation, and Ukrainian director Yarr Zabratski aims to explore those three elements and their interconnectedness. In a sometimes amusing way, Zabratski plays with the conception and perception of time and space. The use of frames-in-a-frame reminds one of an installation, and indeed, Zabratski’s work could be looped eternally, over and over again across time and space.

Nadin Mai (tao films)

Interview with the Director
Yarr, your film explores the three foundations of moving image art: time, space, and place. You explore each one in a separate chapter. Can you please tell us a little about your thoughts on the link between the three elements?

The brightest memories of my childhood are associated with Chaplin's films. For me, they were not a separate reality, something conditional, existed only on celluloid, no. For me, Chaplin's films, till now, are a real reality, into which I easily enter from the first frames of the film. Moreover, with time, I noticed that the reality that surrounded me was losing to the reality I saw on a black and white screen. Now, for me, cinema is a kind of compensation, a return to a state of before-being where there is no time and space, but it is comfortable and eternal. This is an attempt to escape from the vacuum that begins to dominate my life since I entered it. This movie destroys illusions and makes it easier for me to navigate.

If you observe for a long time a state of some space, then over time it becomes an absolutely familiar pattern, which no longer catches the eye. Afterwards, something happens, some kind of failure and the same space opens up in a new way. It's hard to describe this in words. There is a metaspace, when the objects and meanings of today's time merge with meanings and objects from the past, creating a hybrid, new old space. It's interesting to watch this. And to enter into such a metaspace I use drama, then the tools of cinema. Dramaturgy is used not as a level of narrative and description, but as an instrument that reveals space and time with the help of a movie-key.It is not interesting to fix the upper layer. Such frames are interesting afterwards, at another time, when they brewed like wine; when particles of silver break up creating new cultural layers.

Apparently, this feeling was caused by the fact that I, like many, lived through the collapse of the country where I was born. And these territories emerged on the spaces of the former empire, and have not yet found their place in reality and metaphysical senses. These territories are both old (having experience) and young, as new time dictates new experiences. As a result, new places arise with a complex meaning, with a meta sense, in which there are scraps of old meanings and new impressions, such a palimpsest.

More so than perhaps in standard narrative film, time plays an essential role in experimental cinema. And it is this particular element that you start your film with.

In narrative films, there are always screen (dramaturgic) time and viewer's time, and also there is real time on the street. This alignment dictates rigid forms for films and for their creators. In experimental cinema, the time, at the same moment, is an important tool of filmmaking and one that can be neglected. In genre movies, the time exists only for a situation when a viewer witnesses qualitative changes that she/he cannot always observe in her/his short life. Experiments, although I do not much like this word, allow to deform the time, to influence the person, the viewer. But the question is: for what purpose? Hollywood has already learned such experiments, creating complex scenarios where several streams of time and realities can be present, but there is only one purpose, to arouse the viewer's consciousness, to snatch it out for a time from everyday life, to tickle the nerves. When during a 15-second episode the director or the one who is responsible for the editing does three or four transitions, it is clear that it's purpose is an attraction. This is a false way for me. This is a deadlock.

But when a transition is done to ensure that the viewer abandons the notion of physical, linear time in order personally return to the past and not via the character on the screen, and to rethink it, then, for me it is a way out of the existential impasse.

I found your approach to time quite interesting. It is a sort of disjuncture between three separate film frames, each having their own narrative and pace. I wonder whether it had an instructional nature to it, meaning you as the director want to illustrate what time is and how it can be represented in the clearest way. Would this be correct?

I prefer to use another term: novella. A disjuncture has the properties of an end, the finitude. The novelistic form of dramaturgy can have many possible transitions, looping, it's like dreams that seem to end after the waking up in the morning, but at the same time, they constantly live in our consciousness while we are engaged in day-time existence. And each dream can have its own tempo and rhythm, and at the same time they can alternate with each other and not interfere, but create new forms and new meanings. Although in some way you are right - perhaps I had a desire to make the time visible with the help of frames as an explicit sign. I do not think that it happened this time, however.

Each section of your film is different from the previous one. The one element that remains the same is the use of an overexposed frame that makes one think whether or not what we see are dream images.

The answer to this question lies in more simple things. In the city where I was born (it is Baku), every Saturday on the local channel there was a TV programme called Retro, where the classics of cinema were screened. Often those classics were in b/w. In addition, at our house until recently, the TV-set was also black and white. So, my inner visual picture of the world is black and white, in a good way. Black-and-white discovers the presence of all colours, and you can paint your inner frames in any colour you wish. I still do not like colour, I'm afraid of colour in films. I do not understand it and do not see it. If we shoot the landscape in the summer, then there are green fresh foliage in the frame; if it is autumn then it is yellow, etc., and if we want to experiment, then we start at the editing table. We paint our forest, adding convention and experiment. But at the same time, we deprive the viewer of her/his choice, making her/him passive and obedient. The colour in modern cinematography contains too much psychology that interferes with pure perception. In textbooks and master classes they like to tell what red means, and what orange-blue-green means, etc. It's an attraction again, and for a long time, I did not like the red flag on the battleship Potemkin.

And black-and-white gives freedom of choice to both the director and the viewer. In addition, for underexposed and overexposed frames, you can apply those novelistic forms, which I mentioned above. Black-and-white is a more plastic image, both for the director and for the viewer.

Your film can perhaps be described as a visual study of the foundations of a film. What role do time, space, and place play in your filmmaking in general? Do you pay particular attention to them and try to highlight them, for example in the form of long duration?

Once Godard said that he does not make transitions until the frame itself does not cease to provide any information, until it is completely depleted in both meaning and tempo-rhythmic terms. Unfortunately, I have not yet learned to find the moment when I need to take scissors and make a transition. By the way, this is one of the reasons why I use multi-screens in this film... This is a joke. Rather, it was an attempt, perhaps mechanically, to connect not only different spaces but also different people into one character. My new script, which I'm working on, is exactly about this.

Tell us about this new project.

It will be a short film called Remelting. To explain this title I will use the director's explanation, in which I wrote about the title: For me, there is a crossing of simple meanings, such as the remelting of any elements (metal, in particular) and the metaphysical and alchemical, associated with the crossing, with the Charon River, etc. This name, it seems to me, connects what we have already said: the fixation of ordinary, real objects, but when you look at them, there is a mystical sensation, unreality or other meanings, hidden deep under the skin (meta reality, meta-spaces).

But, in addition to spaces, another important topic in this film will be a different person's personality. I want to explore the face, the person, the image, the presence of different personalities, which she/he sometimes is not aware of. And because of those different personalities inside yourself, your path is only hampered; there are illusions of walls, cities, people and lives.

Thank you very much for this interview.