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echo (Naomi Kawase x Amine Bouhafa, 2023)

NotesPart of Special Issue1: 25X250

Every morning I wake up a little bit grateful that I need eyeglasses. In the moments before I grab them from my bedside table—sometimes seconds, sometimes many minutes if I feel like it—my room turns unfamiliar, fresh. That sweatshirt is a small mountain now, that cable a snake. This isn’t my imagination running wild; it’s closer to painting with a partner, each of us with one hand on the brush. I’m awake; I’m no longer stuck in my dreams. If my dreams are a look under the conscious layer of my mind, these out-of-focus reveries are like peeling back the surface of the world.

The gift of a movie camera lets us peek under that surface whenever we like, even with perfect vision. Next time you watch a movie, watch the background, and pretend that that’s the part in focus. Naomi Kawase lets us do this in her short film echo, where nearly every shot racks focus enough to allow each element to be blurry for a time. We begin by seeing the sun, and the camera pans down to show its light reflected by a small stream. Quickly, it becomes apparent that a city was filmed from a far, high angle to produce this play of light. But why don’t we let it be a river, at least for a little while?