Soria Moria Slott
Excerpt from an interview with Stephan Sachs

by Mike Hoolboom
The Independent Eye Vol. 11 No. 2/3 | Spring 1990 | Toronto

MH: The next film is Soria Moria Slott?

SS: Yes. Soria is originally a Norwegian tale, the story of a young guy running through the forest to find a girl in a castle and having a lot of adventures. “Slott” means Schloss or castle, which is far far away and he never reaches it. The first image is two minutes long, and shows a little island far away. There’s mist on it, and the sea is in a blue mood, a very Nordic mood. The camera advances very slowly, moving from a boat in the far part of the fjord. Then a small boat crosses the frame, floating away from this movement, like the island far away. Then the island leaves the frame. This is a whole story for me, a film itself with a beginning and an end. At the same time, it could be the beginning of a fiction film. When this part ends, when the boat is almost out of the picture, the film is lightstruck at its end, it grows orange and cuts directly into the orange of another picture, a woman sitting in a wooden chair reading a story from a book. You never hear the story, you just watch her reading. Her movements are very emphatic and expressive, it’s like the way people read for children. This is interrupted by short sequences you can’t identify, shot in a very dense blue. The storytelling is orange, and these short bits are accompanied by a very high tone. The storytelling is intercut by these pieces which get longer and longer, and then a third element is introduced. You see ground moving towards you, in blue-green as well, and then you see the woman turning a page before entering into another materiality. It’s printed several times, so it’s not really sharp, it lacks detail so she becomes more abstract, more like an image. Meanwhile the movements on the ground are becoming more continuous, swinging back and forth like a wave as she disappears more and more. I just strung a rope up and attached the camera and filmed it backwards. The camera swings over the ground until the end when you see not only the ground but the woods as well. The image freezes and that’s the end of the film, which could be the beginning of the film as well. This whole story is about storytelling.

MH: The woman who’s reading is very emphatic in her storytelling. She seems to be telling the story of what happens to the boat on the island, she seems to make up the distance between the boat and the island. This is what we expect in a traditional narrative. But her role’s undermined here because we can’t hear what she’s saying, so she becomes a sign for a storyteller instead of the story itself. The brief shots which interrupt her reading look like the tops of trees, photographed to suggest subjectivity, the camera moving, the sound harsh and angst ridden, as if someone’s confronting something.

SS: These shots are cued by the most exaggerated of the storyteller’s movements. In a way it’s a joke, there’s another story beginning finally.

MH: It serves as a counterpoint because it brings image and sound together.

SS: The sound that accompanies the storyteller – you don’t take it as an accompanying sound because you can’t hear her voice. But in the interceding sections sound and image move together, s well as the image where the camera swings.

MH: It’s like a trio then, each has its own sound… It makes them a bit like characters, no matter how abstract the image is, they continue to return and progress. But for the most part the film refuses to tell a story. What is the film saying about stories?

SS: It refuses a certain way of telling stories. The last part in the film is what I like. It’s a very physical cinema, the film moves towards that point. I’m laughing as well at a certain kind of storytelling, because is not really what happens, what really happens is much more unconscious. It arrives before words, it’s something you feel.