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The Swell

The Swell (Helena Wittmann x Arnaud Rebotini, 2023)

NotesPart of Special Issue1: 25X250

Somewhat burnt on one side—by the desert sun? —she starts carving lines. So it begins. The Swell is the result of an act of active listening of a filmmaker (Helena Wittmann) to a composer (Arnaud Rebotini). So let us do the same. When we ‘watch’ with our ears first rather than our eyes, we can start ‘seeing’ what happens on screen as a result of a decision in the music making, an image born out a sonic directive cue. A slow onset of sound sets this short in motion, but it is in no rush. In this heat, it is imperative to take your time. Flutes conjure up snake-like shapes and figures that fill the screen. Recurring horns dictate a melodic pattern of sweltering hills. The holes left by the sole character on screen are like unanswered questions. It wouldn’t be the first time when faced with the endlessness of the desert, we were left thinking: where is the biggest open space on Earth? Violins blow away the dusty cloud that hangs over the first half of the composition and erupt into major euphoria; it is a rapid change in scale, much like how the film’s character, the human ant figure, disappears off screen and we are left with the dunes, so very vast. Then silence prevails, while we imagine the blessings of the wind that ever so gently eases the sand downhill.