Date of Submission

Fall 2014

Academic Programs and Concentrations

Film and Electronic Arts

Project Advisor 1

Peter Hutton

Abstract/Artist's Statement

Chris Painter


Artist Statement for

Mirror, Time Echoing on the Water, and The Straight Man re-edit

“If people find out certain things about how something was done, or how this means this or that means that, the next time they see the film, these things enter into the experience. And then the film becomes different. I think it’s so precious and important to maintain that world and not say certain things that could break the experience…People sometimes say they have trouble understanding a film, but I think they understand much more than they realize. Because we’re all blessed with intuition—we really have the gift of intuiting things.”

-David Lynch, Excerpt From “Catching the Big Fish.”

There are a few important themes which my films have been generally preoccupied with: time, memory, subjectivity, anonymity, and the automatic, mechanical side of human nature. Both of the films I have completed for my senior project as well as The Straight Man[1] are fairly representative in this way. In Mirror[2], the man vacuuming the beach coupled with the last shot of the waves implies eternity, as does the end of The Straight Man and the loop in Time Echoing on the Water. In Mirror, the man’s disregard for the sharpness of the mirrors, as well as the transformation of settings from sand filled room to beach, could be thought of as implying a certain distortion of memory towards objects in this entirely subjective world. I think the medium of Mirror and The Straight Man also have a connection to memory and subjectivity, not because it recalls a different time in film history but because the grain and lack of color recalls for me something more akin to a memory or a dream than something you see in objective, waking life. Complete anonymity of characters and settings has been of central importance in almost every film I have created-anonymous lake, anonymous children, anonymous room, anonymous man, etc. In this way, characters and settings take on a somewhat, but not entirely, “symbolic” meaning. In Mirror and The Straight Man, the characters are as much “symbols” as anything else in the films, although I do not think of anything as fundamentally a symbol per se. In regards to the “mechanical” side of human nature, the characters in The Straight Man, Mirror, and to some extent the boatman in Time Echoing on the Water all behave in an almost entirely automatic, mechanical way. I believe the passenger’s seizure in Time Echoing on the Water can also be related to this notion of an underlying, uncontrolled, mechanical side to each individual. This is also strongly tied to the idea of control, the meaning and importance of which I have explored in these films. Some other common motifs which I have used in my films are natural settings away from human society, water and other liquids, things emerging from and retreating into darkness, and uncomfortably close, often prolonged shots of peoples faces.

The question I have been asked most frequently in regards to my films is “What does it mean?” To varying degrees my films are abstractions, and it seems that many people feel the need to tie down these abstractions with precise interpretation and are uncomfortable with the ambiguity. While I have some thoughts as to why certain things are the way they are or happen the way they happen, I don’t think of these as particularly important or meaningful and the original idea did not stem from this kind of intellectualization. As soon as an interpretation is found, the abstraction looses its fluidity and becomes a fixed concept. A person feels they have deepened their understanding, but I think they have a better understanding when that understanding was on a more raw, intuitive level. There is nothing wrong with interpreting and intellectualizing, but its significance should not be overstated in regards to something that is in essence abstract and ambiguous. To create something that can be fundamentally understood in this way implies a creative process which is in essence mechanical and I have aimed with my films to create something beyond this.

Some films and filmmakers which have influenced me at one point or another are Stanley Kubrick, Akira Kurosawa, David Lynch, The Passion of Joan of Arc, and Tarkovsky’s Mirror[3]. Some non-cinematic influences have been Franz Kafka, Daoism and Buddhism, Native American folklore, and psychoanalytic theory. Thank you for your interest in my films.

[1] A film from 2008 which I recently re-edited. I am including it for this reason as well as because I feel it goes together with Mirror. It is worth noting that it is included primarily for this reason and is of secondary importance in regards to my senior project.

[2] While Mirror is less than 3 minutes long, as compared to Time Echoing on the Water’s 15 minutes, Mirror’s subtly and more abstract nature makes it deserving of just as much attention here.

[3] The similarity of title is a coincidence.

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