Friday, March 09, 2012

Saara Cantell: Cinematic Diamonds (dissertation)

Saara Cantell: Cinematic Diamonds. Narrative Storytelling Strategies in Short Fiction Film. (Translated from the Finnish-language dissertation, Timantiksi tiivistetty, 2011, by Fleur Jeremiah). With a dvd with five shorts (Diagnoosi / Diagnosis, Mahdollisuus / What If, Potretti / Portrait, Vaihtoehto / Alternative, Tiistai, päivävuoro / Waiting for Alice) and the Kohtaamisia / Heartbeats trailer. Helsinki: Aalto University / School of Arts, Design and Architecture / Department of Motion Picture, Television and Production Design, 2012.

Aalto University book publication party at Tampere Film Festival, Finlayson Area, Plevna, The Finnish Labour Museum, Werstas Auditorium, 9 March 2012. In the presence of Saara Cantell and Richard Raskin, among others.

The short film format has always been central in the history of the cinema. During the first 20-25 years (depending on which year is selected as the birthyear) it was dominant; in comedy it was dominant for 30-35 years. According to Saara Cantell there is not much research on the short film format, and not even consensus on the definition. For Cantell the duration of a short film is under 15 minutes, also a Cannes criterion. For Tampere, Nordisk Panorama, and Oberhausen it is under 35 min, for the Academy Awards and the BBC Short Film Festival 40 min, and for Cracow, Brest, and Uppsala under 60 min.

Cantell focuses on fiction where the main distinction is, following Raskin, between the narrative (story-driven) and the experimental (image-driven) cinema.

Cantell also focuses on the modern short film, which starts with Roman Polanski's Two Men and a Wardrobe (1958), "the first modern short film" (Raskin).

Two main points of reference are the joke and the poem. Cantell follows these reference points seriously: the sense of incongruity on which jokes are often based, and showing the familiar as something new, which is an essential characteristic of a poem. The metaphor is a key device in both poetry and the short film. But, most importantly, both poetry and the short film are forms of condensation. At its best, a short film can approach the crystallization of a haiku by Basho with qualities such as karum (lightness, domesticity, earthiness, ordinariness), shior (bending, emotional tension), hosomi (the smallness experienced by man in the world), wabi (loneliness, desolation, plainness), and sabi (a concrete atmosphere of desolation and loneliness).

Of her own short films Cantell analyzes motifs such as the mirror. Waiting for Alice is a fantasy about a mirror image's life separated from the person reflected. In What If the estranged protagonist sees an old woman disappear into a mirror.

Having seen Cantell's five short films of under 15 minutes earlier today I was struck that they have no dialogue and they have all a pantomime nature, a musical quality, and a dancing structure, mostly based on modern dance performances. Only the 28 minutes long Peilikirkas päivä / A Clear Winter's Day [literal translation: A Mirror Clear Day] had dialogue.

Härlig är jorden / World of Glory (Roy Andersson, SE 1991) 16 min
Maggie (Rodrigo Garcia, US 2005) 11 min
Surprise! (Veit Helmer, DE 1995) 6 min
Matka / A Journey (Pirjo Hokkanen, FI 1983) 9 min
Szél / Wind (Marcell Iványi, HU 1996) 6 min
Naturlige briller / Natural Glasses (Jens Lien, NO 2001) 2 min
Out of Place (Ellen-Astri Lundby, NO 2001) 2 min
Kom / Come (Marianne Olsen Ulrichsen, NO 1995) 5 min
Dwaj ludzie z szafa / Two Men and a Wardrobe (Roman Polanski, PL 1958) 15 min
Merci! (Christine Rabette, BG 2002) 8 min
Le Cheval 2.1 (Stephen Scott-Hayward, Alex Kirkland, GB 2003) 2 min
Alt i alt / All in All (Torbjørn Skårild, NO 2003) 4 min

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