María Alché's A Family Submerged, which is receiving an exclusive global online premiere on MUBI, is showing from February 6 – March 6, 2019 in MUBI's Debuts series.
They say we are born in other people’s words, their lines, the plans that are made for us, and when we leave this world, we remain in the words that will come after us. This film is an exploration of the dynamic cycle in which we exist, we are complemented, and we become something else.
The main lead loses her sister, and with her goes a part of Marcela’s tangible world: the talks they used to have, their similar way of arranging objects at home, the shared anecdotes, the grimaces, the emotions. She is left with the void of being, as of now, the oldest member in her family. Marcela experiences the beginning of a transformation. Which of all those intangible elements are the ones that is absorbed by mourning, which of them are passed on, and which disappear for good? In a privileged state of quiet reflection, she is forced to acknowledge her own finiteness, which enables her to make more authentic choices. The film comes across as an inquiry in Marcela’s personal journey, as she encounters lack of meaning, and an immediate urge to retrieve it in her every step. There is a crossing between two times, the more familiar and quotidian one, embodied in all the house chores and tasks typically involved when running a family home and working out problems alongside others, and the more vertiginous, cyclical, eternal one, related to questioning the meaning of things.
This film comes from my urge to reflect upon the way we deal with grief, what gets transformed within us, how we spend our time, and about the vividness of living riskily. The narrative form is based on the unusual, the transitory, the continuation of situations that lead to unexpected consequences, where objects, dialogues and spaces are linked as they move the group of people forward, like they were atoms drawn together and pulled apart, provoking emotions in them. Each culture has to find a narrative form that matches its idiosyncrasy, and I believe that the nature of our nation is related to some sort of transitory feeling, in which things can change any time. The characters in the film have a fleeting conscience of knowing they are here in transit, not really attached to anything, living in an inadequate world they constantly try to fit in, where old plans are cancelled as new ones emerge, causing cracks of unexpected happiness. I’m interested in provoking that sense of vertigo upon reality, in which the elements presented as essential become less meaningful in order to make way for the new conflicts that were submerged and start to surface surreptitiously.
I like the photographic work of Tina Barney, especially A Survey of Family Photography, which presents a multiplicity of actions and bodies filling the frame, yet there is always an area of it that is completely empty. In the same intense way, I like William Eggleston for his peculiar manner of approaching insignificant spaces, providing them with a magical aura. Cinematographer Hélène Louvart and I worked together incessantly, exchanging names of photographers that we were interested in, and discussing the quantifiable shape the story had to take, in terms of camera angles, colors, and camera movement. Characters that emerge from the dark, from a non-specified space, through a lighting that comes across so bright it overexposes and does not allow us to see, contrasting with other silhouetted characters. We worked on the texture of the image, trying to achieve an odd-looking lighting, whether it is due to excess or lack of light. Cutout silhouettes, characters that talk to other characters from the darkness they are immersed in, as if they were some sorts of entities. In terms of atmosphere, the family home has to express the oddness and the porosity of fitting in a space that’s not entirely real.
MUSIC AND SOUND DESIGN
Right as the writing stage of the film unfolded, I began working with Luciano Azzigotti, composer and pianist, and Julia Huberman, sound designer. Our minds were set towards finding the sounds and rhythms that fitted each of the different scenes, in agreement with the colors, shapes, and objects that were starting to fill the image. Our main goal was that the two of them tightly blended into an organic whole. These ideas were completed with new pieces, and the recording of all types of sounds and textures.
In more abstract terms, A Family Submerged rotates around the perspective of things. I think about the universe being observed from a big distance and how we can see that simplicity of dots, lines, like when the Earth is observed from an aircraft: everything looks small, a giant wave is seen as a mere white line in the middle of the ocean. The same happens when observing the microscopic world and the collision of atoms and particles. The problem is scale, inevitably attached to certain spatial-temporary limits. We are in the scale of people’s relationships, a scale of human conflict, complex emotions, as opposed to a wider perspective of the universe, in which all those conflicts, observed from a different time scale, are read as completely insignificant.