Excerpt from an interview by Mike Hoolboom
in The Independent Eye Vol. 11 No. 2/3 | Spring 1990 Toronto
[...] SS: Die Insel is a film made by Jean Francois and I in 1984. “Die Insel” is the island. It’s a kind of narrative about storytelling. Two men sit in a hotel room taking breakfast in a long shot. All the noises of eating are synchronous but not the speaking. One speaks while the other is eating silently. This image stays for a very long time, three minutes or so, it gets a little boring. He speaks about his holidays, and the more the story goes on, the less the other listens. All in one shot. The next shot show the two much closer. We began with a long focus shot from far away and end in short focus very close up, so you have nearly the same things in the image compressed at the beginning and separated at the end. After this first scene, the camera moves back into another room, and he’s talking all the time, over the whole course of the film’s fourteen minutes. Like the images, the stories are very banal, unscripted cliché talk about his holidays. When the camera moves into the backroom you don’t see them any more, you see chairs, plastic plants, some tables. The camera plays with these objects, but now with very much love. They appear as banal as the story. You’re always looking for a connection between what he’s speaking about and what you see in the room. And then the film finishes. The story gets close to the images, but they never really meet. There’s an obvious identification between the silent man and the camera. But like the rest of the film it becomes too much, it’s ironic. The whole film has no really interesting images in it. If there were, it wouldn’t work.
MH: Most filmmaker would find that hard to admit. Sometimes you experience a very moving sunset, and then you take a picture of it, only it looks like a bus station postcard. It’s impossible to represent because the very act of representation makes it banal. The camera records only the cliché, only the history of other’s intentions.
SS: Sometimes when you look at a sunset you think, “It’s nice, but not as good as a photo.” I like the known images of these postcards, which everyone has experienced. What is represented in the picture is not so interesting, but the way it’s taken the view is important. There’s no image which doesn’t say anything. That’s a contestable point amongst some documentary filmers, they believe in the objectivity of their own pictures as opposed to the truth of their view. But the view is always there, before the camera registers it.