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Robert Beavers

Printed in Millennium Film Journal No. 32/33 (Fall 1998) Beavers/Markopoulos

I: "Editing and the Unseen"

The living quality of the image: it is enough in itself to discover a means of achieving this.

The many hours of patient editing, this listening to the image, waiting for it to speak and reveal its pattern; clear and often unexpected, yet recognized in its rightness.

There is the choice of what to discard and the direction of what is included. The discipline comprises never making a cut in the editing as a correction of the image.

The scale of the edited film, its dimension, is a result of how the editing is sustained. One must guard against moments of lost concentration when the momentum of growth, of narrative growth, is lost...I place pieces of film which are of no use in one corner of the table; then at a certain moment, when these have accumulated, they become an obstacle to proceeding further unless I clear them completely from the table; otherwise, they take on the sense of being a burden. It is not enough to leave the discards there; they must be cleared away to make a space for the next choice in the editing.

I memorize the image and movement while holding the film original in hand; the memorizing gains a weight and becomes the source for editing. To view the film projected on an editing table would only distract from this, creating the illusion that the editing is done in viewing; instead, it is protected from an over-determined intention, rather than willed, it responds to the editing-memory holding the image in hand. The result is that I may continue without a need to view the film projected until it is completed.

Sustained by the awakening of emotion united to strength, I reach beyond the life-likeness of the actor and the shadow of performance to the figure gathering the light-- the life itself of the image.

How was the strength found to gather the images?

From within a solitude of being, enduring/accepting the moment when a single color is the only sign of feeling in an environment of which all else is opposition...

The great reality of color: I respond to it directly in editing, when one image is set after another in a phrase unified by one tone.

The choice of length is a judgment of worth enlarged beyond the filming in the clarity of the edited film-phrase.

I approach the image through the unseen order of the phrase. Like the repeated walking to the site of the filming, it is created by a pattern of returning and adding to the film as it develops.

The total and true direction is seen finally as each completed film continues to grow by the decisions made after the film's completion.

II: "La Terra Nuova"

The act of filming should, in itself, be a source of thought and discovery. As simple as this statement appears, it is actually opposed to the conception of the film director's work in front of the camera, which is still an adaption of theatrical `mise-en-scene,' and equally opposed to that of the cameraman who develops a style for the image. By dividing the act of filming into a collaboration between director and technician, the image is reduced to illustrating a preconception; whereas, the function and possibilities of the camera, when used by a filmmaker, should reach what is newly seen and result in an image that has the power to project its meaning into the future.

The filming is like the roots of a plant--whether extended over many weeks or condensed into a few days or even hours. It is the hidden part of the total act of filmmaking, never to be seen by the spectator and in fact not even seen by the filmmaker: an act which takes place only in part through the eyes of a filmmaker and more as a series of reactions and gestures which comprise his immediate relation to the camera. The result retains certain elements of that moment, such as the quality of light, etc., but it is equally mysterious how the camera is surrounded by the filmmaker and draws what he is searching for towards the image.

Basic intentions for a film are balanced against the qualities of the actual filming. A complex branching-out of intention continues to develop as the filming progresses. Within each act of filmmaking there is placed a memory: not only the enclosed act of recollection which is easily associated to editing, but also the search for balance during the actual filming. The physical quality of the latter is similar to the way one might find a place that has been visited only once; the destination is kept in mind with a certain unspoken sense of what may be the direction leading to it. 

Reaching between touching and seeing to form the `root' of the film, the memory imprints a power sustained by proportion. The intention to realize a particular idea may face an obstacle projected from this same source, and by such means, the filming turns in a direction beyond the first conception to a stronger image; yet, the correct result is recognized without hesitation because it is measured by a congruence between `interior sense' and sense organ.

This is the means with which a filmmaker creates the individual perspective of his film--a perspective not limited to the analogy of a window but establishing the form in which the spectator will have the unique place of being a living participant.

First, an example from a great painting: Michelangelo's Sacra Famiglia is not merely a circular image (a tondo) but is composed of two bisecting circles, one being the circumference of the image and the other suggested by the wall and figures grouped in the background, which, if rotated, incorporates the spectator as he stands in front.

Now imagine how a film extends its perspective in time and brings the form of seeing closer to the spectator. In the film Amor the full circle of the lens turns in front of the camera's aperture and creates a perspective like that of the eye turned upwards or cast downwards, or of movements similar to the eye turning with its break in focus covered by the blinking of the lid. This use of the lens suggests a rounded field of vision and intermittent movement which are natural to the eye--amplified here into the positive form in which the film is seen: a `totally rounded orb, in its rotundity joying.'

For the filmmaker there is a continuity between the physical structure of the medium and every action, whether simple or complex, involved in the film's realization. A bodily sense of the filming is sustained through the editing; literally the same hand which has operated the camera reaches to complete the image. Even the simplest unwinding and rewinding of the unedited film rolls is part of this process that may release an insight--finding the direction in which all of the parts will fit carefully together.

The perception extends further as the editing of image to image develops into the editing of the sound and results in the film's total form. The depth and movement of the image is transformed by the depth and movement of the sound, and the resulting unit--its length and weight--is seen in projection.

Synchronization is the point at which the image and sound touch. The value of each point depends upon its appropriate placement in the film's perspective, where it must reveal part of an entire acoustic equal to the composition of the image. The spoken word and musical accompaniment are no more than a distraction in the film if they fail to participate in the basic image-sound unit. Neither the word nor the image should be used to devalue the other, yet the misuse of the word, either as commentary or melodrama, endangers the film most frequently by neutralizaing or abbreviating the image.

It is the projection which completes and complements the act of filming; in the one, the light enters the camera and is held upon the surface of the film; in the other, the projected light enters the dark and is reflected from the screen to the spectator. Yet there is always an invisible barrier which the spectator must overcome before he can see the film. The part of the image or sound which causes a difficulty or opposition in viewing is the physical equivalent to this barrier within the spectator and is the means of passing beyond it to the level where the film and spectator establish a tranquil and receptive balance.

Then, the continuous growth of the film opens its leaves to the light; and if the value of the film is true, the spectator will retain its
perspective even after the projection--drawing certain objects and movements into view that he would have ignored otherwise.

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this article was prrinted in Millennium Film Journal No. 32/33 (Fall 1998) Beavers/Markopoulos