'The owls are not what they seem.'
Reviewing sequences of a film over and over again is like staring at a picture and listening to music on a tape loop all at the same time. The sequence becomes familiar, filled with personal emotions and thoughts. It gets a life on its own. In this life, the audience creates; a quest is endowed: there has to be something special, something unique – and I have to find it.
Taking a quote from one of my favorite movies, Twin Peaks, into consideration, the uniqueness we are looking for lies within the common – or rather: behind the visual part of it. The key to the soul of something, which is its uniqueness, is embedded in what we know about it. There are just some layers that have to be removed, some dogmas of seeing it need to be changed and the very special part becomes obvious, as if it has never been hidden.
Dealing with a sequence of film, I have to think about the layers or dogmas I can change. The definite sequence, having a beginning, a middle and an end, can be smudged by watching the scene in a loop. The interference of picture and sound vanish when they are consumed separately. Those ideas have been used and discussed already. They work as keys. Following the rising sound and the flickering pictures at the end of the scene, I slow it down. Time is relative.
I wonder why I had to think for some time before I got this idea. Talking about film and the conservation and decay of memories, the concept of time is obviously important. In reality, time goes by. It just does (especially when you are not a physician, talking about Einstein and curved time and all that). But it is different with film. It is easy to rewind, play backwards, slow down or fasten up. And you can stop whenever you want. Which is exactly what I'm going to do now.
Those flickering pictures in the last second are catching my eye. It might be just broken material, but you know 'the owls are not what they seem'. It could be more. So I stop at the last second and replay it very slowly. And then I stop again. There it is! The uniqueness of this very minute. The last pictures of the very last second show the portrait of a young woman. I take a closer look at her. She is pretty. And I found her.
The picture of her is not perfectly clear, but I think she is sitting in front of a canvas to be portrayed. This sequence might not be original but somehow historical, as there were few oil paintings after photography was invented, which was some time before films were made. I think about films about historic events nowadays. Is my young woman some kind of Sissi ancestress? Was she as famous in her times?
Taking my time to watch her, I start to like the sequence a lot. I play it about a hundred times, always thinking about the children and the nuns, putting thoughts and emotions in it, ignoring the tiny flicker at the end – and now I found a treasure. This is what makes the sequence dear to me. The same thing happens when one is listening to a record and finds a hidden track. Obviously it is not a gold treasure or a new species. Someone has put it there, knowing that it is going to be found. It should be found. But still, it feels like one is the explorer of something completely new and this feeling will come up every time the record is played.
Having a closer look is not only time consuming but a key. It makes aware of hidden treasures within the things we know already. I think that happens to memories when one is careful: not decay but transformation. The more details are revealed, the more emotions can be connected. Decay does not need to be feared then. Whenever I think of this film again, I will remember the feeling when I discovered the woman for the first time. In my memory she will not be lost.
Time itself is nothing total and ongoing, seeing things in this way. It is us, taking our time to watch and feel something, who create the notion of time. We cannot stop it, that is true. But we can reduce the pace. 'The owls are not what they seem' and this film isn't either. Watching it closely it is not a sequence of pictures and sounds, it is a world of ideas that has to be unlocked and drained with one's own emotions.