Made in 2008, this is my final piece from my Undergraduate Degree, the contextual essay is below.
Filmed with various cameras and edited on Avid and iMovie.
All I Can See is Violet is a post modern film primarily about questioning reality, the basic plot follows the computer hacker (unnamed in the film) Henry Ireland as he ‘retires’ a corporate CEO by deactivating his Post-life animation tank. However, the film reveals by the end that Henry is in his own Post-life animation tank and ultimately the narrative aims to destabilize the viewers’ perception of the reality on the film. It does this using many devices, for instance the film does not directly answer the questions being raised; the film is interjected with a scene of a couple discussing a book written in a universe where World War 2 had ended differently but the book in the discussion is a work of fiction about World War 2 ending as it did in our reality. The characters and plot devises in the scene are unrelated to the previous 7 minutes of film and as a result of that the viewers’ relationship with the film is altered and the viewers’ perception is shifted away from the tradition of narrative for instance experimental film maker Valie Export’s film Facing the Family  shifts the focus of the viewers’ from the film (of a family watching TV) from the TV to an illusionary reality before the screen that creates perceptive feedback onto the viewer,
“…artists like Valie Export established the screen as a reality on which, or in front of which, the action of the work took place. The language or discourse of cinema is fundamentally altered… by emerging forms of which first establish the screen as surface then reverse the symbolic space from behind to before the screen… the relationship of the spectator to the work is transformed when the time of the action is reversed from being the ‘once-upon-a-time’ of the mythic past to the critical arena of the present. This becomes the time in which the spectators individually live… the conditions for this… must be achieved in the form...” [Le Grice, 2001; 276]
The illusionary reality in which the viewer traditionally resides in while watching films is deconstructed and mirrored onto the viewer who now is analysing herself, in All I Can See… the discourse of cinema isn’t altered as totally and aggressively as Export does; the viewer is still involved in the narrative (as I never intended All I Can See… to be an primarily exercise in theory) as I wanted to continue the science fiction genre conventions but the theory comes as an after thought. The intended effect is to deconstruct the ‘reality’ of cinema. The interjected scene, although dimensionally unrelated, runs along a thematic parallel as the rest of the film; we are first told of one possible reality, that reality is then contradicted by another possible reality and the previous one is now a work of fiction, the third possibility is that both realities are false and if that is true then as viewers the film now exists in the new reflexive reality before the screen and not as the moving images behind the screen.
All I Can See… is a participatory film, although it’s not essential for the viewer to engage the film on a philosophical level the film is still about the subjective experience of the film. I want the viewers not just to watch a film but also to experience the film, for one of the key scenes in the film is the extended psychedelic sequence when Henry starts to become information and achieves total free will without dimensions of time and space. This idea came from the philosophy of Henri Bergson in his book Introduction to Metaphysics he discusses ideas of pure time and intuition that are the path to true free will,
“The intuition we refer to the bears above all upon internal duration. It grasps a succession which is not juxtaposition, a growth from within, the uninterrupted prolongation of the past into the present which is already bleeding into the future. It is the direct vision of the mind by the mind… Intuition, then, signifies first of all consciousness, but immediate consciousness, a vision which is scarcely distinguishable from the object seen, a knowledge which is contact and even coincidence.” [Bergson, 1983: 32]
Bergson argues that intuitive time or pure time meaning actual experienced time (as opposed to mathematical time which is measured) is actual reality as the intellect cannot be reality because it is static and real time is perpetual. To experience actual reality and free will one must experience time as a non-linear, non-mathematical structure; I’ve already discussed All I Can See…’s deconstructive attitude towards reality as a standardised and singular prefix structure, and part of what causes that deconstruction is the way time demonstrated in the film. The plot is non-linear as mathematical time has collapsed and the flow of time shown through the film is best described as autonomous and each instance has no bearing on either the previous or the proceeding scenes. As the surrealist work of art seems nonsensical or even random because it is the direct work of the mind’s free will without intervention from science and logic, All I Can See… exists not as a linear structure from A to B to C but as one mass nucleus demonstrated best in that extended sequence when temporal and spatial signifiers are dissolved by the hissing feedback non-existent computer information. And thus Henry achieves his crown Chakra, Sahasrara (represented by the colour violet). This is the Chakra of pure consciousness and the death of the body, when Henry becomes pure information (represented by existence in the post-life television) his body is destroyed and he no longer is limited to world of science and intellect; he is able to experience actual reality through pure time experience in the void.
During the film the characters Henry and Berkley swap their identities several times, this is to demonstrate both the unstable identities of the post modern, post digital age of the internet, in which anyone’s identity can be purchased and customised as well as the development of the plot in which Henry’s mind is being consumed by the information super highway. The title cards ask two questions of Henry and of the viewer, “who are you today?” and “where are we going?” as Henry’s being starts to sink into the infinite world of information and the viewer’s spectator consciousness is beginning to change it’s relationship with the film. The intertitles are dialogue for the purpose of the story but their point of origin is never made concrete through the film’s use of montage, as such the film’s relationship with the view is altered and the questions break the fourth wall by imposing them on the viewer. This is a continuation of the themes of multiple realities and existentialism I’ve previously discussed in this essay. It becomes apparent that Henry’s will is not the driving force of the film pretty early on, and as the dialogue is not explicitly directed at him due to it’s vague line of questioning, Henry instead acts as a vehicle for the viewer to experience the film through as he has little or no say in the experience he encounters he essentially is a viewer in the film which as an effect helps to dissolve the fourth wall and pulls forward the experiential reality of the film before the screen.
The story of the film is an adaptation of the Phillip K. Dick book Ubik , in which a group of people are in an explosion, however all but one of their party survives, or at least that’s what they think until they discover they all died except one. Their consciousnesses are being kept alive in machines so they can communicate with the living relatives and business partners. For my film I wanted to stick to the genre convention typical of Dick’s stories; that is the characters experience a twist of fate or a grand epiphany by the end of the story usually involving an alternate reality or identity. These key themes run through out science fiction, the same popular questions of ‘humanity’ and hyper reality carry on into Hollywood blockbusters (Blade Runner , Vanilla Sky ), Japanese Anime (Ghost in the Shell ) and the Russian Avant-Garde (Solaris ). Vanilla Sky is of particular interest to my film as it’s a remake of the Alejandro Amenábar film Open Your Eyes (which is the story of Ubik); the shift in style from Spanish Independent production to A-list cast Hollywood Blockbuster the film intentionally draws attention to itself as a shallow Hollywood remake and thus like Facing the Family, Vanilla Sky begins to engages the viewer in a reflective reality before the screen by asking similar questions to the ones I wish to ask with All I Can See…. Namely Vanilla Sky draws attention to itself (and film in general) as a consumable product, it’s therefore subversive to the traditional narrative discourses in cinema and as previously mentioned All I Can See… goes one step further than Vanilla Sky and completely reworks the viewers attitude and relationship towards the narrative process. I wanted to achieve this effect on the viewer by approaching the theme in a different way, although I still wanted to conform to genre conventions (it was my first ambition to make a science fiction film), it’s experimental cinema which is the ideal device to subvert the medium as it’s use of anti-logic and desire to repulse the viewer that enables my film to raise those questions.
“Brakhage’s project of the “unruled eye” is so radical because it rejects not only the norms of commercial filmmaking but all the norms of aesthetics and perception. According to Brakhage, everything we have been taught about art and the world itself separates us from a profound, true vision of the world. We are straightjacketed by myriad conventions that prevent us from really seeing our world. So it is with the filmmaker: the so-called rules of good filmmaking that are so carefully followed by commercial filmmakers prevent them from expressing all but the most trite reformulations of the same boy-meets-girl story. The film artist’s only recourse is to throw off all these conventions as forcefully and as quickly as possible.” [Peterson, 1994; 4]
Peterson and Brakhage, just as Breton and Bunuel before them, protest! It is the duty of the film artist to slash the eyes of those willing victims. I wouldn’t call All I Can See… an experimental film or even an art film; although I draw on their ideas my film doesn’t exist for the same audience of the “unruled eye”, instead it’s a piece of popular culture which casts off it’s viewers habits of passively absorbing those straightjacket conventions. It seeks a middle ground where conventional science fiction can enjoy the same transcendent experience and profound perception of the true world, and indeed the true free will found in intuitive reality, as is found in the world of the “unruled eye”.
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