Finish year

"I enter into a dialogue with my films" Interview with CHEN Yi-chu, director of Spectrum of Nostalgia

  • Stefanie ESCHENLOHR
  • 2018TIDF
  • Taiwan Competition

Translated by Stefanie ESCHENLOHR and proofread by TSAI Wan-ying

Spectrum of Nostalgia is a sequence of childhood pictures and videos which often come intertwined and in repetitions, accompanied by a gentle voice reading the voice over. What seems to be a dialogue with herself, is the director's way to explore her feelings about family, love and memory.

What does the existence of images actually mean? What is the essence of human existence?  The pictures and videos that we have kept, do they mean that the “Me” of that time still exists? Those questions about films and life are approached in CHEN Yi-chu's short film about images, memory, and nostalgia.

What was your motivation to make this film? What was the reason for getting back to those old photographs and videos

CHEN Yi-chu:  Once when I returned home, I went through our family pictures. I found those recordings that my parents made with their V8 camera which they had bought when I was born. My mother would use the camera randomly, most videos are about me sitting around with my family. Everybody would laugh, when we were re-watching those videos, but I would also feel a painful sting inside me. I made this film to show my point of view and my understanding of those images. I am trying to give an interpretation of memories that belongs to me.

Why did you choose the form of an experimental documentary to tell this story?

CHEN Yi-chu:  There so many points of discussion in this film, the stills, the time, the music, all kinds of issues. I wanted to make a film that explores the boundaries of filmmaking.  My own standard for filmmaking is to show how I understand and decode films. Such an attitude towards filmmaking would commonly be called“experimental”, so the film would end up being categorized as an experimental film. However, the form of my film just results from the way I am dealing with the material. There was no other way to handle it. Therefore, I am working under the label of“experimental films”, and I put some attention on experimental aspects.  

There are those long monologues - how did you manage to arrange and integrate them into your film?

CHEN Yi-chu: In the beginning, I was planning to use dialogues. I went through the material with someone else, and we were discussing what we saw and what we thought. Later, I thought, that the other person's position was rather distant in those dialogues. That's when the idea of using a monologue came up.  With a monologue in my own words, I would be involved more intimately. Generally, when I am making films, I have no preference for dialogues or monologues. The materials I used in this film seemed to be more suitable for monologues.  

Why is the narration a dialogue with yourself? Why didn't you involve your parents or siblings?

CHEN Yi-chu:  My answers were already there. That's exactly why I didn't have to use the camera to ask people. The answers that I was looking for, were not to be found with anybody else.  Also, I was not looking for anybody's comfort, there is no comfort. And concerning the changes of mood: When I looked at those snippets, some thoughts came up. Those thoughts became the film that you can see now. In simple words, this film shows my thinking process.

What significance does this film have for you?

CHEN Yi-chu I think that my reflections should concern people, our human existence. This existence is very complicated - love, memories, action, everything is entangled with each other. If you record my voice or take picture of me, would that be a proof of my existence?  It actually isn't. Reflections about our existence would automatically extend to the question of love, because there is no way to escape memories and emotions.

Why did you chose the medium of film to tell a very intimate story

CHEN Yi-chu:  If you are an author, you have to show in your work. This is true for every artistic genre. Even when you make a feature film, you can't hide yourself.  My idea of filmmaking is that I have to get fully involved into my own work, so I don't mind being exposed. As everybody has different views when watching a film, I am not afraid of the audiences' projections and conjectures. They would not prevent me from doing the things that need to do. An artwork is an intimacy made public, it might be over-interpreted or projected onto my person. I might be imagined to be this or that kind of person. But my thoughts and my feelings still belong to me. Each person would understand things in a different way and each person only owns the things that he or she understands.

Why did you study film at university?

CHEN Yi-chu: In my imagination, writing can take many different forms, it can come in words, two-dimensional images, films, or fiction writing. After I encountered the world of films, I realized that I quite liked film as a way of writing. I still remember my feelings when I visited a cinema for the first time. Everybody in the room was immersed in the images on the screen, I was fascinated by this. When I was a child, it was a family tradition to watch the midnight show on New Year's Eve. Entering the cinema was like a dream, and when we came out, the New Year had already started. I liked this feeling of a sharp change. Because films exist in my life, all kinds of feelings exist in me. I like this. That's why I studied film.

What had the biggest influence on your style of filming when you were at university?

CHEN Yi-chu: A good thing about the programme at Shih Hsin University is that it offers experimenting film courses which allow students to try out different ways of filming. All my questions on filmmaking were about the avant-gardeness and the reflexivity of experimental films, that is the essence of experimental films. If I had wanted to make feature films, I would just have learnt how to write a three-act plot, how to do the light and sound, how to do the makeup, how to get to the aesthetics right, and so on. Feature films have high requirements on the material side, and you need a lot of manpower. In documentaries, you have to get very involved in your task. And when you are making an experimental film, you have to continuously ask yourself,“What is a film?”With feature films, you always have to think about ways to capture the audience.  Documentaries, in contrast, rather have an open, public character. But having said this, the boundaries between genres are getting blurred these days, one doesn't have to worry about the definitions of so-called experimental, documentary, or fiction films. I only care about the form of the film and about its artistic structure.


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