The Place We Shared

Carla Lacar and Marc Jago
Timeless Awards: Would you mind introducing yourself?
Carla and Marc: Hello, we are Carla and Marc and glad to show „The Place We Shared“ at your Festival. It is our first film together, coming out of a long conversation in a variety of media over several years, as we both share a background in Fine Arts and also a mutual interest in writing.
TA: How did you find out about our festival? What made you register your film to it?
CM: We found out about the Festival on Filmfreeway and registered there. „Time. Memory. Film“ sounded promising: you don’t find many festivals that are dedicated to film as a medium to explore the faculties of the mind, or that give room to poetic sensibilities that challenge the audience. It’s good that there is a new one now!
TA: What is your reflection about our Festival main themes, Time, and Memory? Do these themes translate into your filmmaking?
C: I feel both time and memory have a special relationship to film, in the way memory can become presence through and in between the images of a film, and therefore create a unique experience of time-travelling. I am very often taken by how much a film can bring me into deep memories of something that I can’t really grasp in another way, it feels like watching a film also happens through memory. And the joy of remembering.

And then time: there it is great freedom in film, how time can be free from space, it becomes in a way as movable as memory, and personally, I'm very interested how through different time layers it's possible to weave a “time-body” that allows associations beyond a linear lifetime.

M: I find the organization of time one of the most interesting subjects of working on a film: the question of layers of time and how they interact is posed in a peculiar way, very different from writing, for example. When you write you can work all based on memory and imagination, but when you make a film, you have to find a way to bring everything into the present, not once, but again and again – this is an act of resurrection rather than an act of remembrance – until there is the moment, when the film becomes an independent entity with its memory, with a life of its own.
TA: Let’s talk a bit about documentaries. We recognized your film as a Diary Film. Can you guess, why?
C: I like this recognition because it resonates with what “the voice” and the person both are trying to do: to touch the world around through a very personal lens, trying to get a hold, but also getting lost in some side paths. And you don’t censor yourself in a diary, you follow a stream, follow what a particular day brings, the mood. I guess this aspect of seeing and experiencing the surrounding and the stream of loosely related moments and the way this almost becomes a (silent and multi-voiced) conversation with oneself supports the form of a diary film.

Also, I like how it fits to how the film was made, we tried to include the situation that we encounter in the moment of filming, there is an idea but also what is there beyond the idea is not overruled by a rigid plan.

The filming itself resembles in a way how one would write into a diary, in a stream and in parts.

M: The final film on the other hand shows a journey between waking and sleeping, memory and projection and the editing often makes use of a parallel montage of at least two layers of time: thus, the protagonist is never located in the present, in one present alone – here, on the visual side, we differ from what a diary is, as a diary is very clear about the place and date, one could say its function is to break up the continuum of time in memorable fragments. You have the schedule to organize the time ahead of you and the diary to give a linear structure to your past.

It is the Voice-Over in “The Place We Shared” that suggests a progression of discrete situations and specific reflections; I can see how this form of a Voice-Over creates a diary like dimension. Moreover, particularly while filming on Lampedusa, the process of working itself had a diary like quality, as very often we would write down observations and reflections without any worry about their use in the final film. We came back to these notes when we were editing, and they started to interact with whatever memory we had of the journey apart from the notes.
TA: What was your first idea? How did you expand it, step by step? How did it grow into your film?
M: The first idea came off a photograph, which is actually still in the film. It is the image of the person looking through the window with the hands on the side of the eyes. The person tries to see something, but what does the person see? It is from a fashion catalog published in the 1980s by the Japanese Designer Matsuda, which was photographed on a Mediterranean island.

Then it was summer, and the media returned to cover the refugee crisis on the borders of Europe. I don’t know why, but the images, connected by vague whereabouts, stirred up something and I started to write about a character, who went to Lampedusa. The character wanted to meet a friend who never showed up and got lost between the streams of tourists and migrants on the island. Most of it was written in the form of inner monologues, as I could not write about an external situation, I knew nothing about. This lack of knowledge became itself a subject of confrontation.

It was a relevant question for Carla too, and this started the conversation and collaboration between us.

C: We decided to travel mostly overland and take the train, a ship and only for the last part because it was logistically not possible, a plane. We wanted to work with these different means of transportation, and modes of moving through places, and also connect with the feeling of being in between places and the time passing. What it means to see the sun rise and set in these different vehicles. I think this became an important part for the pace and appearance of the film. And what we saw inspired further writings and ideas to enrich the framework we laid out before starting the journey.

I feel during these days we developed a sensitivity for looking at our surrounding through the lens of our camera but also through the lens of the perspective we wanted to offer. And being in this mindset was very helpful arriving at Lampedusa and learning what kind of images we wanted to take to fill the circle with the film.
TA: I feel like I need to ask you, Mark, about Harun Farocki’s heritage… Have you developed your artistic vision on top of it,, or you’ve gone your route? I am referring to your university times – you studied film in Mr. Farocki’s master class.
M: What made a lasting impression long before I became a student in Harun Farocki’s class at the Academy were years of studying the history of film at the Filmmuseum in Vienna, it was there that I first grasped the immensity of its possibilities. Since writing always was and still is my second passion, the era of Film Noir with its distinct language and stylistic mannerisms became a big influence. You might not recognize it at first, but even „The Place We Shared“ has some allusions to the protagonists in Raymond Chandler novels: the lonely character, who through an interest in truth or an excess of curiosity gets mixed up in the world beyond his or her capacities of entangling what he or she has gotten into… but these characters are individualistic, sometimes even fatalistic, and it is at this point that the master class inspired a shift in perspective: there was an awareness and insistence on political implications and film as a means to transcend the individual and explore social and economic relationships.
TA: And you, Carla? Who or what inspired you to start making films?
C: For me film and poetry are both sources of inspiration for creative expression, like Marc, I spend a lot of time at the Filmmuseum, where we also met, to watch film and think with and through them. Again, and again, I'm impressed how the materiality of film can catch the complexity of relations. The bodily aspect, too, moving bodies and landscapes, how we are and could be in this world. I keep coming back to the filmmaking of Abbas Kiarostami, the emotionality of watching 'here is the friend’s home’: a child trying to be heard and the urgency of doing something, going through landscapes. I can be this child in my memory, even if I could never be this child.

I think film can in a very distinct way communicate with us, maybe because it is close to dreaming, and make something accessible that is between intellect and abstraction, I'm interested in the sensation that can be created through film in another body, how it is possible to share a moment.
TA: “The doctor has checked your status, and you’re supposed to be ok.” I can’t miss the importance and sense of these words in your film. And these are the very first words we hear. It’s like your intention was to open the world of semblances, false appearances, and masks… Or, maybe – to expose hypocrisy underlying the modern society… Am I on the right track?
C: False appearances and missing images, somehow hidden, but even for and from yourself, the character itself becomes blind because it's unclear what is real and what is not, a tiredness to even decide anymore. Yes, it references to a world in which meanings can shift very fast and what you see is hidden cruelty in complexity. You should be okay; the person has no reason not to be, but this tiredness of keeping up an imaginary world made of easy explanations leaves her out of order.

M: According to the expert, the feeling should not be there – but the feeling insists on its presence… Is the expert wrong? Or is something wrong with me? Am I wrong about it? …?

I feel this relates to a paradigm, the dimension of information, that has become all important in our lives. All our relationships, even the most intimate relationship to ourselves, are mediated. We are in between so many voices, how are we supposed to find out which ones are relevant? There is always another aspect, some opposition, or some ignorance, can it even be resolved? And both – sticking with easy explanations or the effort to face complexity – is tiresome.

Why? Maybe because the effects of exploitation we have decided to base our collective well-being on can be felt even in the comfort zones by now. If the machinery of exploitation is internalized and its algorithms colonize the neuronal network, we enter a dreamlike state, not as an escape from but as an effect of materialism. That’s why sleeping, and dreaming are central images in the film. They constantly question the progress of the „documentary effort” the film otherwise pursues.
TA: And we have another motif – a journey…. To where? And why?
M: There is the journey of the protagonist in the film and there is the journey we made for the film: but because the film is so personal because much of the writing was done on the journey reacting to the circumstances and much of the filming was done with the protagonist in mind the two journeys and their motives are entangled in various ways.

C: I think it’s in the voices that these two are overlapping. How we try to reflect on what is happening, maybe even trying to understand through writing why it feels necessary to take this journey to the borders of the European Union.

And the figure, which perhaps in a more naive way travels there and doesn’t really know what to make of this place, lost and blind and consumed in invisible pain.
TA: I feel you leave us with no hope in the end…
M: I would agree, that is if you don’t t know, how the rough cut of the film ended: Carla objected to that end, and we decided to cut it out. She said it would completely block her emotions and make her forget everything she had seen prior to it – and I think she was correct.

The last scene of the rough cut was a YouTube commercial by an Austrian warehouse popping up – as those commercials do, regardless of what you are watching. They used Beethoven's 9th symphony (the hymn for Europe) as a backdrop for a song, that should motivate people to go shopping after the lockdown. All of this was wrapped up in the national colors of Austria, a large family choir abusing Beethoven's music dressed conservatively in red and white. It is one of the most disgusting commercials I have ever seen. At the end of the film, it created a physically painful moment of being pushed back into and being damned to ignorance and consumerism. It was too much… yet this commercial is nothing we invented; it is a part of our present reality.

C: Even if we didn’t show it in this form, the brutality of having such images and such realities next to each other stays inside the film. And about hope, I think hope grows between people and the figure shown is on her own trapped inside images, I think through connecting to the audience there might be hope…
TA: Let’s talk about voice-overs. Half essays, half letters, or maybe there is more to that? From film making point of view, there is a unique relation of visuals and commentaries in your film… Please shed the light on it.
CM: Yes, there are different aspects reflected in the Voice-Over, coming from three distinct stages of work, too. There is the writing that was the foundation of the project, imaginary inner monologues, very little of those made it into the final film. Then there are personal notes that were written while filming on the island, a writing that was used as an internal recording device side to side with the camera as an external recording device. A sort of diary as the days passed… finally there is the writing that was written with the material of the film, the sounds, and images, already in mind. It has a more essay like quality and was at the same time conceived from a more functional perspective, connecting parts of the film and giving it a dramaturgical arc.

Also, the relationship between voice and image is used to establish two different logics in the film: one linear, one circular. What is central to the approach is to treat the image and the sound as independent narrative spaces. While the Voice-Over suggests a more linear progression along the lines of immersion and experience, the frequently repeated images of sleep are a metaphor: we are dislocated in time and space, unable to tell where the dream starts and where it ends, what’s already in the past and what is yet in the future. In the end, we might have never left the room – the room being also a metaphor for the mind. Have we gone anywhere, have we seen anything – beyond our programming?
Timeless Awards: How does your creative process look like?
CM: It is different with each project and was unique to this one, as it was a complete collaboration without the usual hierarchies specific to film. It was thinking together, moving together, breathing together, yet thinking, moving, breathing independently: We would say we were in a constant dialogue about an object that was at the same time taking shape through this dialogue.
TA: What equipment were you using for filming?
M: We used a Fuji X100F for filming. It is a camera with an equivalent of a fixed 35 mm lens and a great layout for street photography, but actually not intended for filmmaking. It made me think of Robert Bresson though, who used only one focal lens in most of his films. 35 mm is very close to the human field of vision, so after feeling into the implications, we could embrace the limitation.

C: In some situations, we used our mobile phones too, which were also our primary devices for sound recording. It was very windy on the island, and we could not expect to be able to use much of it in the film. But with this minimal equipment, we could move freely and sound wise sketch everything we wanted – to replace it later in the postproduction if necessary. And I also wrote on my phone, during breaks and times of reflection while filming.
TA: How about the postproduction?
CM: Most parts came together quite naturally in the editing, having a protagonist was helpful to filter the personal experience. Since we had done a lot of writing for the film, the harder part was to find out what of it to use for the Voice-Over. Because we were working without a budget, it took considerable time after the editing to find collaborators to finish the film and give it a proper sound design.
TA: Can we see your work somewhere? Is it available online?
M: The last film prior to “The Place We Shared”, „After Love – Die blauen Stunden“, a feature length Neo Film Noir about a love triangle, has just been taken off the platform by its distributor. I’m looking for new channels to make it available. If you want to get an impression, however, there is a website with a trailer and trivia. It’s www.after-love.net.
March 2022