Shown in Compétition #4.
Hour by hour the ancient face of repeated
Beings changes, and hour by hour,
Thinking, we get older.
Everything passes, unknown, and the knower
Who remains knows he knows not.
But nothing, Aware or unaware, returns.
Equals, therefore, of what isn’t our equal,
Let us preserve, in the heat we remember,
The flame of the spent hour.
Ricardo Reis (Fernando Pessoa)
Text from the selection committee
Increasingly prolific and far away from the autofiction schemes that made him famous (Dead People, Mario Makes a Movie, or even the recent It’s About Time), here’s Roger Deutsch’s The Flame of the Spent Hour, one of his darkest films, found footage piece built as a sound crescendo, a nightmare marked by a sudden, spectral white page.
In the past year you’ve been shifting, changing, your way of making films, from a narrative and voice-over oriented practice to a more informal, free and abstract way of dealing with images and sounds. Can you tell us more about this change? Did you put Roger (your homonymous alter ego that we’ve heard on many of your films) on hold?
Editing films is just about my favourite way to spend time. But I had always spent months obsessing over the structure of my films before beginning the editing. In 2018, after a year and a half of work, I completed Fathers and Sons, which screened at the 20th edition of the Festival des Cinémas Différents et Expérimentaux de Paris. One day I was talking to my friend, the filmmaker Péter Lichter, trying to explain the extremely complicated structure of a new film I was contemplating. Péter suggested that instead of structuring ahead of time I should start experimenting with just throwing shots onto the timeline and try to find their ‘poetic’ associations. He assured me, given my inclinations, that the structure would make itself known as I worked.
I had a title I liked, faint forgone forgotten, but had no ideas beyond that. I found an opening shot I thought would work and then asked myself what comes next. And so it went, shot by shot. Before long themes began to reveal themselves and I started to see the whole structure. After that it was pure joy moving things about until I got a film that worked and coincidentally ran exactly 9 minutes. This was extremely pleasing to my formal side. So I have made 5 films in this style over the last year or so. Filmmaking became fun without my ‘Roger’ character.
But ‘Roger’ has not gone away quietly. He wants to narrate an abstract film I shot in Venice. We were discussing the matter just before I sat down to write this.