Karlovy Vary 2023: Here & Elsewhere
Bram Ruiter’s experimental short Here & Elsewhere, world-premiering at Karlovy Vary’s Imagina programme, is both beguilingly simple and satisfyingly complex. It is a work the director describes as “a romantic film in which water is a guiding force for a journey with an unclear destination.” It is also a film that forefronts the lyricism of Jorge Luis Borges and the fragmented observations of Heraclitus. SEE NL interview by Nick Cunningham.
Here & Elsewhere by Bram Ruiter
In the film Ruiter presents images gleaned from his personal archive of cinematic musings and observations. We see the dissolving effect of a water vortex on a sugar cube, reeds in a running river, swirling particles on the liquid surface that resemble distant galaxies, or water as a replenishing life force that fills the bottles of thirsty passers-by. The film ends with an indulgent hand enjoying the soothing feel of the water’s flow.
We also see rapid movement along train tracks (incorporating experiments with the zoom dolly shot made famous both in the Michael Jackson Thriller video and Spielberg’s Jaws, another watery film), leaves and trees, as well as portraits of a contented cat (Anna) and a woman named Claudi Moll (Ruiter’s partner) who rests on a sofa and taps on her keyboard. “They are the film’s romantic core, and of course the journey without a destination, as relationships tend to be,” says Ruiter.
In essence, the work defines moments of transition, with no clue given as to what has come before nor what will ensue, as underlined by a quote the director lifts from Borges’ Arte Poética: “It is also like the river with no end that passes and remains, a mirror for one same constant Heraclitus who is the same and is another, like the river with no end.”
“My films are collage-like morphologies concerned with creation, contradictions, labour and the unfinished or incomplete,” Ruiter underlines on his website. “I'm fascinated by objects, procedures and materials deemed lost, non-traditional, broken and obsolescent.”
The poems of Borges chimed with Ruiter’s early artistic sensibilities, the director points out. “He pretends that the thing that he writes about already exists. And I used to do this as a kid a lot. I would come up with an imaginary film or game and make a magazine around it - as if the film or game already existed, even if it didn’t. And then also try to kind of place it within a historical context to make it seem even more like it really exists, so that people would have to do a double take.”
Before he embarked upon Here & Elsewhere, Ruiter was working on an altogether different film, one about ambition and failure, but which “just wasn’t clicking.” So he decided to unite the themes he read in the poems of Borges with the images of water (and others) that he had shot when attending festivals at Pesaro (Italy) and Karlovy Vary (Czech Republic) where his A Weave of Light was selected. He was determined to create a new work within three deadline-defining moon phases. Within the first moon phase he honed the concept, and within the next two he shaped, edited and competed the film.
“I always loved that idea of reusing existing things and to build on top of what I’ve already made, or the other way around,” Ruiter comments on a rationale he also applies to music composition. “This technique of sampling, but in films.”
“I'm a big fan of Hollis Frampton, James Benning and Deborah Stratman,” he adds, referencing what he calls ‘the holy trinity’ of US avant garde filmmakers. “I really like that idea of applying a certain type of structure that you generally don't see in film, that comes from poems or from short stories. I find that really fascinating. That's also where a lot of my general desire to make films come from, this idea to see what works together and what kind of flow it can have.”
In the case of Here & Elsewhere, the structure that Ruiter applies is palindromic, “that starts and ends on similar terms,” the director stresses. “I like these structural conceits. I'm interested in morphologies, the study of structures. I'm in a very baseline place with that. In this film I'm using a palindrome, so I'm going back and forth. And my next film's going be a juxtaposition, a kind of dichotomy and a riff on Here & Elsewhere.”