Sofia Bohdanowicz and Deragh Campbell's MS Slavic 7, which is receiving an exclusive global online premiere on MUBI, is showing from June 4 - July 4, 2020 in MUBI's The New Auteurs series.
Considering Sharon Lockhart’s collaboration with Noa Eshkol, in which she retranslates the deceased artist’s elaborate system of choreographic notation into movement, Daniela Zyman negates the perception of a filmed subject as a singular identity and defines it instead as a figure of two, an encounter between the artist and the protagonist. She applies this to Lockhart’s greater body of work, describing Lockhart’s particular ability to allow the coexistence of the subject’s inherent right to self-representation and the artist’s formal impositions, these two aspects never subsuming each other but instead forming shifting and traceable geometries between them. I’ve found this idea useful in considering acting, thinking of a character less as something that you become but instead something you exist in relation to, coming in and out of synchronization with and being held at different angles and distances.
Watching Autour de Jeanne Dielman (1975), the documentary Sami Frey shot of Chantal Akerman directing Delphine Seyrig, and seeing Akerman’s appearance in that kitchen, I was struck by the idea of the iconic Jeanne Dielman not being one woman but a dialogue between two women. There is an amazing shot of Seyrig, rehearsing Jeanne, sitting at the kitchen table, staring at the air in front of her, and Akerman across the table, also staring at the air in front of her, like a mirrored reflection. Akerman quietly says for her to get up and Seyrig decisively walks out to the balcony. You see the women moving in relation to each other, reflecting and departing from one another. Throughout their conversations, Seyrig challenges Akerman to justify her formal decisions and Akerman complies or resists, questioning the need for justification. Their conversation seems to become about where the character comes from: from outside, through adherence to Akerman’s pace and simplicity of gestures or from inside, through Seyrig’s understanding of the character. But perhaps Jeanne Dielman appears through the process of the women arranging and rearranging themselves in relation to one another.
While the structure of my collaboration with Sofia doesn’t so much differ from the traditional director/actor dynamic, in that I place my own person against the director’s conceptual restraints in order to produce a character, we perhaps take a literal interpretation of these stipulations. For instance, in the construction of the monologues, upon receiving the translations of her great-grandmother’s letters, Sofia took notes on what she found most relevant and what most moved her. I postponed reading the letters until shooting in order to capture my first encounter with them (to most resemble Sofia’s first encounter with them) and instead kept notebooks on readings that I thought could be relevant to letter-writing. We then embarked on a shooting cycle in which I read a third of the letters during shooting, constructed a monologue combining Sofia’s notes and my own that evening, performed the monologue the following morning, and continued this pattern for the remaining letters and shooting days. Moving between the poles of both mine and Sofia’s experiences, the character of Audrey Benac is expressed.