I realise one of the qualities that draws me so strongly to Angela Schanelec's work (which I've only discovered via Mubi and Fireflies shamefully recently) is that she doesn't force narrative from scene to scene with an imperative on dramatic causality.
Much like Haneke's Code Inconnu or 71 Fragments of a Chronology of Chance (and to a lesser extent, some of his other works), the accumulation of narrative meaning is wrought through the placement of moments both side by side and adjacent to one another, sometimes seemingly without correlation.
It's a kind of poetry. A gentle, intuitive understanding of how the interior, unspoken logic of memory-narrative, dream-narrative or even, probably more accurately, lived-narrative exists. Without the forced impetus of a driving dramatic pace, or predetermined act-based structure.
I was struck by something Elizabeth Gilbert said to Krista Tippet in an episode of On Being -- she has cited this thing she calls the 90% Rule: that is, anything interesting or worth doing is 90% boring. Making art, while magnificent is 90% boring. Marriage (for love) which should be the most fascinating and miraculous thing in the world: 90% boring.
I was discussing this with Nick (my husband) yesterday and we laughed because in watching Schanelec's work, it becomes unequivocally clear that the 90% boring is where the deep, internal drama is: it's where the intimacy lies. The supposedly "boring" is in fact, what I frequently want to see on screen. Not out of contrariness, but actually because these slow, fiercely minimal moments of everyday-ness draw you in slowly, quietly, inexorably until you can feel your whole being subtly shaking.
Mubi are subtitling their current focus on Angela Schanelec "Showing Without Telling" which is gorgeously apt. It harkens back for me of course to the old phrase acting teachers would throw at you when on the rehearsal room floor: "don't tell me, show me"... when trying to explain (or justify) a performance choice.
But it's also fundamentally descriptive of the situation I currently find myself in while developing this film. I'll write and plot and write and plot, and then sit back and review. And what I'm finding is a deep compulsion to toss anything that is too "tell-y". Too narrative. Any scene or plot point or character interaction where I have crafted overt drama. If it isn't a moment of "showing" -- that is, allowing the space around a character or object to simply be what it is -- then it starts to get really on the nose.
It's deeply contrary to the traditional way we are taught to write screenplays, but then again, I'm learning that the "done way" fundamentally does not facilitate my ability to communicate story the way that my brain understands it, so in realising that, I'm finding I'm finally shaking off my insecurities around my obligation to adhere to the proscribed laws of screenwriting.
At the end of the day, it's about allowing audiences to make intuitive leaps which can sometimes feel terrifying -- like it requires a hell of a lot of courage in the face of needing to "make drama happen". But then again, I'm also struck by something I watched Steve McQueen saying in an interview about making Hunger recently (and I paraphrase badly, but):
"People, when they go to the cinema, sit down with so much knowledge of... everything; so what you've got to do is present them with the intelligence they have and allow them to fill in the space."
(In Hunger this approach is massively true; as it is somewhat in Shame, but also of course in so much of McQueen's video artwork.)
I am up to the bit in the process where all the index cards become first stabs at actual scenes. That's today. It's weirdly emotional when this bit happens. It's like all the ingredients of your spell are there and you're about to throw them into the cauldron and see what dreadful magic you're making. Which bits you've gotten hideously wrong.
But I'm pleased at least today knowing that I'm absolutely going in from the right angle now; through the side door of "showing". The angle of allowing moments to be and expand into themselves and overflow through the resonance of the next moment.
In a way it's an acknowledgement of the fact that we are making poetry, not literature in this cinema. I'm going to come back and back to this again and again. I think it's the key.
Until soon. MZ. x