Thoughts on the Uninterupted Take

Gunhild Enger

During the past six months I have made two films consisting of only one take and with a fixed framing. One of them was a documentary and one a work of fiction. In the documentary these pre-requisitions have been highly decisive when it comes to the films final form and content. When working fictionally I have decided these conditions myself. This basically means that while working with the documentary I made a film consisting of many choices beyond my control while working fictionally I've made conscious decisions.

My question to myself is: what I can learn from my own work with the documentary?

In Back-to-work I was allowed to film a lecturer during a mandatory inspirational seminar for job seekers held by the Norwegian unemployment office (NAV). I was out of work at the time and a and took part in the seminar. I wasn't allowed to film the other participants. These basic conditions later became decisive when it came to where I placed the camera and how close to the lecturer I finally came when filming. I was curious to find out what it meant to inspire the unemployed and what it looked like. The way I perceived the situation was that the reason I was allowed to film was because I was part of the group. I was an exception to the rule. To be as trustworthy and authentic as possible I therefore tried to be as "invisible" as possible. So when I saw the film I felt that the choices I'd made where based upon that wish; to be "invisible".

I placed myself in the far right corner of the room, trying not to embarrass anyone. From this position I composed a picture large enough to get a feeling of people sitting in the room, but apart from the back of the head of one person at the far corner of framing, you couldn't actually see any of them. I had no idea how he'd planed lecture. The only thing I knew of was his basic body language and his ability to entertain. Afterwards I though that part of the films strength was due to the fact that I'd decided the framing without knowing the narrative. I don't try to hide the fact that I like large static pictures and that this was part of the reason for my quick decisions. Still though, my main concern was the "invisibility" of me filming. For me it was very important not to disturb the lecturer or the audience with noise or movement from my part.

One of the basic premisses of documentary filmmaking is; being where the action is, tagging along. What makes this situation a bit unconventional is that the camera and framing remained the same during the whole shot. Seeing the finished film I notice how the framing gives strong indications how to read what's happening. For me the framing becomes seminal to the dramaturgy. In reality I'm standing about three to four meters away from the lecturer. The fact that he uses depth and moves in and out of the frame is crucial and the reason that I bare watch the whole film. Had he just stood there in front of the camera for 15 minutes it wouldn't have been a film.

There is always talk of dramaturgy when making a film. When using the term one usually refers; to progress, in other words; at what pace the film moves forward. Usually working with the dramaturgy is done in the script stage or when editing the film. What scenes are chosen, where they are place and what their purpose is in the context of the film. So how does the dramaturgy look when making a film consisting of one shot? Is a dramaturgy born as soon as I set up a camera? Is dramaturgy more about patience than content? Is Godard wrong or right when he calls life a badly edited film? Is the dramaturgy he speaks of bad or is it a question of people ability to experience secondary time and by secondary time I mean; time where you don't considered your self the main storyteller. For example "I was there" and therefor I know. Time in film is for me secondary time. Someone has experienced the time before me or someone has constructed the time so that I can experience it through their eyes. When the camera is still with one framing the frame itself becomes the construction. I have set up a camera at a specific place so that afterwards I have the possibility to consider what this framing has given me. I suggest that the films content theoretically can be defined as: "The narrative in relation to the framing.

With the expression "The narrative in relation to the framing" I for example mean the way the lecturer moves within and outside the framing of the picture. The lecturers physical movements I define as; where he places himself in the room. These movements together with what we hear him say, not how he says it, is what i call the narrative of the film. He moves back and fourth, sits down etcetera. Initially I think that the only things specific for the film is the framing and the narrative. But when explaining the films content it consists of more than these elements. For me the contents is the experience as a whole. So the way Is perceive Back-to-work is a combination of the narration and the framings importance for the telling of the story. The film wouldn't have had the same content if the camera had been place differently. Maybe that seems obvious but if I'm going to learn something from making this film I have to take a closer look at what I actually see and what it makes me think.

One example is the back of Bente's head, at the far right corner of the frame. If not for Bente I wouldn't have had a film either. The fact that I see only one of the participants and only the back of her head and her profile makes me pay extra attention to whats happening. Her body language and the way she responds speaks for the whole group. In a way Bente makes it easier for me to understand what I'm witnessing. This is because I don't have to interpret lots of different and ambiguous characters. Can it be the absence of visual reference points that trigger my curiosity and create the negative room? The negative room is for me what we don't se but hear or can acknowledge through the characters movement in and out of the same picture. Because Bente sits still through out the whole film she is part of the frame. She is constant. At the same time she is a representative of what hear and see. In other worlds Bente is an important part of both the framing and the narrative. I would like to sum up my film as follows: framing+narrative=content.

Due to having a certain belief in the knowings of mathematical logic I see a parallel to the illogical formula of plus and minus: plus and minus equal minus. My formula is: specific + specific = non-specific. In other worlds; I suggest that the content in my film is the tension between to constants (framing and narrative). Together they create a variable (a content/sum of the impressions). I'm also tempted to claim that it's at this point quality is created.