My film Cyanide has had a peculiar beginning. It originated from a period of my life of extreme depression, and uncertainty, and it was an action I was performing every day that made me think about developing the more predominant images of this film.
I was cycling in the winter through a path covered in dead leaves. I found myself going many times back and forwards along the same path: the leaves had fallen over it from the trees that grew at its right side, and there were so many of them arranged in a rather ordinate way. They cached my eye many times, they nearly became a fixation to me: the vision of these leaves coming towards me and passing by, as I drove away, became very important.
They surely must have had a meaning which I could not grasp, but they were also nice to look at, and shiny. I could not find an answer to many of the questions about my life at that time, and usually, when things get so hard, I tend to turn to images for a possible explanation, or an answer; it might sound silly, but things, objects, images, places can talk to you, even if they do not communicate through spoken language, neither they are rational or clear, even if they only give you a hint, or a confused indication, they can help you to put the events you are experiencing in a different perspective.
I do not know today the meaning of those leaves, but looking at them was enough to make me develop Cyanide.
Maybe Cyanide is about the world that’s being poisoned, but there is more to it. It is about acknowledging death: observing up to nausea everything you do not understand, or that bit that puzzles your mind. Many leaves on the footpath may mean a repeating pattern, a recurring event, the same signification over and over through a crazy journey. Once you have printed into your consciousness that particular shape you can start to remember about it in order to recognize it the next time it crosses your way. That is why the many leaves wouldn’t go away… Even if they are the supreme detached element, it is their image that would not really detach. A residual part of the dying thing had to stick to my head as departure and separation is always a painful experience. It is possible that the sticky image of whatever is “gone” is just an anchor, a secure place, for the stability of what stays close: that bit that cannot afford to go within the subject. There are no limits to what can go wrong, in fact in this video, as well as the many repeating patterns, occasionally other frightening elements appeared on my imaginary way: those red bones are reminiscent of previously consumed meals, crashed mirrors of impacts, and keys are the possibility of a way out. What is left within the self, together with all its impressions and images, is the way out to freedom. It is very hard to see freedom into such a dark and constrained scenery, with trashed particles, and that unbearable sense of claustrophobia, there is no clean rain here to clear dust from the mourning stage, and the rain is black and mean, in fact the last action does not suggest freedom at all, it rather looks more like a total eradication of the “walking being”, the viewer/author is pushed away together with the large amount of leaves, the search for a way out is only an imagined possibility here, only a hope behind the door…
Pessimism in art is always an attempt to make viewers aware of the worst possible unfolding of the events.
In my artwork I always alternate the figure of a real woman to the one of a doll. Reptilica is a good example of it: the real woman is always appearing in fast cuts, and close ups, small parts of her body, usually feet, legs and hands are shown in the frame.
The doll on the other hand appears in her entire figure: there is a rich variety of objects that can be put beside her, and it is very easy to create a setting using miniature elements, it also becomes more interesting to to look at weird reproductions, or distorted reflections of what surrounds us, like if the film frame and what it contains became a parody of the real world.
If you own a video camera, you can basically film anything around you, but most of the times, if the film is not focused, or structured, and if the shots are taken at random, on the streets for example, the outcome can really become uninteresting, too common, too obvious, or too flat.
With an artist a film can become a world of wonder, and treasures, if the right attention is given to the actual images that are shot. With only a medium sized box for instance, filmmakers can do amazing things, without the need to go outside their own house, the choice of objects, backgrounds and combinations is infinite.
The camera becomes the tool through which whatever existed as very tiny idea inside the artist’s mind transforms into a visual construct which simulates a real space, with depth, corners, colors, and life.
A film is mainly made of images. A filmmaker has to understand images, therefore photography is the key factor, how to make even only one photograph is very important when the time comes for shooting a film. A film is a succession of moving images, dancing images, rushing images, thunder images, storming images…
The succession of frames could be fragmented and a possible narrative could be nonsensical or distorted only thanks to the way a film is edited. A film is something to be done with a focus in mind because the camera will then be used to “focusing on things”, a very important part of filmaking is the “close up”.
If you really know how to put together a number of close ups, then you’ve understood a lot about how to make a film, a landscape is better drawn and packaged by oil painters, they will definitely do a better job with it, unless you have a wonderful setting constructed in a studio, never zoom out too much when some movement is happening in the scene, if you don’t want to bore the viewers, and if you haven’t got the right equipment.
Anyway, this “close up strategy” is what has worked for me, please note that even in the Hollywood studios a lot of shots are taken with the help of miniature settings, or computer generated 3D animation.
Why a lot of artists have this attachment and fascination for fairy tales? A rabbit in a box recalls Lewis Carrol’s Alice in Wonderland, and this particular story is very dear to artist today, as I have seen many interpretations of the characters and the objects taken from this story. Animation, paintings, surreal art, many authors dig into this imaginary world of the unconscious which is often found in the content of fairy tales.
The Tower Trilogy has three titles that originated in Italian: “La Torre, Le Formiche, Lo Specchio” and they translate this way in english : “The Tower, The Insects, The Mirror”. This animation is made with 16 mm film, and DV video, and it is very abstract although some figures appear on the screen at some points.
It is a work in which I explore the state of hysteria. The first piece, “La Torre”, is a 3D animation presenting a claustrophobic space in which some objects rotate on themselves on a chequered floor. In this piece there is an atmosphere of emergency and “loss of control”: the doll’s head spins on itself faster and faster in this dark space where a sense of prisony and oppression is staged by the absence of windows or doors, and a first stage of hysteria here is identified with the worms crossing the room.
The theme of hysteria manifests more overtly in the struggle of the second section “Le Formiche”, in which a succession of images of shaking hair, falling flowers, black paint on canvas, and frenetic body movements inhabit the screen. With the obsessive shaking of the head of a real performer, this part also represents a moment of denial but at the same time a process of purification.
The third part of the trilogy, “Lo Specchio”, revolves around the theme of death in a settings very similar to the first piece “La Torre”, just this time the atmosphere in the room with the chequered floor has changed, because the struggle and the tension are now gone. Also the light is different, from night it has become day, the sunlight reached the room as if a window finally opened up in it.
While some dead flowers keep falling from the sky/ceiling together with fragments of mirror making a dry sound, everything else is unmoving until we see an outburst of rain: the sole element that can clean and restore hope to the sense of anguish of the entire film.
Here the concept of violence is not expressed literally with scenes of cruelty, but it is symbolically represented by the never ending rain that exists through the all duration of the film. This video does not present a resolution to this sad scenario, there are only few moments in which the rain stops, and leaves violently shaken by the wind moving in slow motion inhabit the screen.
The violence of the wind is here only a preface to another sad paragraph of rain. Rain starts with bunch of dry leaves and brunches that fall on the floor to subsequently draw the attention to a garden where we see some blood dripping on the grass, and hear a sound of two single notes echoing; at every change of scene there is the falling of a red flower, a brunch or a seed making a sudden dry noise.
This kind of object-falling represents a loss or a sacrifice, or even a sudden waking, that always brings us back to the observing of the red rain. This video does not present a narrative with a beginning, a middle point, and a resolutive end, but it confronts us with the same action repeated over and over in different places, therefore ironically it is like a vinyl record playing always the same music.
The irony of the content adds to the well thought composition of the images, and to the dynamism of some shots: this beautiful imagery is contradicted, and although coexists with the discomfort of the viewing of blood.