By José Sarmiento Hinojosa
Last week, I learned that light speed can’t be accurately measured. It’s impossible to synchronize two clocks which can accurately, considering time space dilation, exactly tell us if the speed of light is the same in its travel forward than in its travel back. And all the understanding we have of quantum physics as today, may variate exactly because we can’t possibly know this. Quantum states of matter, the mere basis of our existence. We are standing at the border of an abyss, gazing forward to the void, trying to find a new model which will replace – or confirm – our standard model of particle physics. After the Higgs Boson, are we to find new particles? Is there dark matter, and where? Too many questions to ask, to satisfy our immense curiosity for the unfathomable.
Watching Pauline Julier’s Way Beyond (2021) about the building of the new FCC (Future Circular Collider), the successor the now legendary LHC (Large Hadron Collider), which has confirmed, in certain way some mathematical theories about the genesis of our universe and the composition of matter, I felt immediately drawn into this positivist view of the future, of the risk management and careful planning of this immense project which will possibly change our understanding of everything we know today. Julier’s isn’t much interested in the science behind the project -although it does take an important role in the development of her documentary narrative- as in the political, environmental, logistical, and philosophical possibilities of this new construction. Through archival footage, VR simulation and many condensed hours of debate between the people at CERN (The European Organization for Nuclear Research), we take a peak into a discussion that will transcend beyond the lives of the people involved in the project right now.
The future, it seems, is the main element of the last conversations that took place in CERN for the development of this new hadron collider. And the future is packed with unforeseen consequences. There is an eerie line at the end of the film “50 years from now, maybe it’s AI which will finish the whole project.” “well, maybe AI will just compute all the possible results without the need of an experiment, in the future”. As fallible as we are, as human beings, we prepare for a future which will probably no longer rely on us. Thus, the film is a delicate balance on this unmeasurable optimism for what’s to come, the matters that will escape our hands in the following years, and the big nothing we’re confronting. We’re staring into the void, only a step of distance to a whole new understanding of what’s around us.
In another completely different view of the unfathomable, lies Isabelle Prim’s latest Condition d’élévation (2021). Prim has already dwelled into her interest in psychoanalysis and how they relate to her work. In a 2020 interview at Desistfilm, she talked the role this had on her work: “…when a patient tells a dream, the psychoanalyst is not so much interested in the dream itself but in the way the patient tell it, in the words he chooses to do it. Telling a dream (or a story) is always betraying it. And that’s also how I see my relationship to the scenario, as a betrayal. “
In Condition d’élévation we’re subjected to a treatment, deconstruction and reassembly of magnificent found footage from the French National Centre for Space Studies, to tell a playful story of a girl, Chloe, and an atmospheric balloon, and her strange encounter in space. It is through the shot of a divan and the telling of journal memories that Prim herself articulates the connecting tissue that puts together the film, venturing into the unseen, again, the unfathomable places of the psyche, in relation to the past, the hidden meanings on the interstices of a dream, or a memory. What is the symbolic meaning of the gas balloon in relation to the story? What is that is hidden from this “secret encounter” from the little girl, seen through Prim’s conversations and the past investigation that ensued? “And since then, all men for me, have become just that: journalists”. The journey of a girl who is subjected as a case study. The possibilities of a new life growing inside her body. The “skin” of the balloon as a simile for her own tactility. The balloon as a projection of her body.
During the 20 minutes of Condition d’élévation we’re subjected to all these questions, but never losing the playful manner Prim has permeated all of her work with, which is one of the main qualities that makes her proposal all the more attractive. In the end, gravity takes it’s toll, and we plunge, yet again, into the unknown.
In the end, in two very different films, we find two ways of approaching the liminal spaces of the mind, and the hidden possibilities of reality.
Director: Pauline Julier
Cinematography: Marion Neumann
Editing: Orsola Valenti
Producers: Joëlle Bertossa, Flavia Zanon
2021, Switzerland, 60 min
Burning Lights Competition
Director, editor: Isabelle Prim
Sound: Géry Petit
20 min, 2021, France
International Medium Lenght and Short Film Competition