The Magic of Seeing

The Magic of Seeing

The feature image at the top of this blog is from the titles at the beginning of my film, as drawn by Jean-Laurent Ratel. The image starts off as a chalk drawing on a blackboard, spheres and straight lines reaching out to each other, then morphs into my logo which is a brass Roman letter E within three revolving brass circles. A visual idea taking shape, the beginning of an incredible journey.

As I continue showing The Blinding Sea to audiences around the world, I am struck by how visual ideas take shape, and how they are crafted into symbols, characters and scenes, which in turn contribute to story-telling. But we may not all see the same thing. When I engage in conversations with my audiences, I learn a lot from what they tell me, as they carry the story forward yet more.

I shot this footage by placing my GoPro at the bottom of a mountain brook in Frelighsburg, Quebec. The camera faced upwards and caught the brilliant colours of autumn foliage, as filtered through rippling water. I used this footage as background for a scene about the way polar explorers, wintering in Antarctica, longed for female company back in Europe.

The other day I was reading Maurice Merleau-Ponty’s Phénoménologie de la perception. He tells a lovely story about an elderly lady who liked to put on her glasses and read stories aloud to her little grandson. But imagine how shocked the boy was, when he put on the glasses and couldn’t see the stories she was reading to him! He just saw black squiggles on white paper! Naturally, he didn’t know how to read yet.

This story is so magical, it reminds me of a story I often read to my children when they were young: at the end of each episode, a bearded little elf would jump into his hat when things got too dangerous for him. His hat was like a portal leading to another, safer place. My children loved the way he could simply disappear, at will.

There is magic to film-making, which is a complete art, and one of the most amazing ways to tell stories. It brings together visual images, soundscapes, music, voice, the presence of humans doing things on the screen, and also artistic effects which may not be directly part of the story, but support it indirectly. Plus an enormous amount of research and experimentation, which are concealed from the person watching the film.

A film is full of visual ideas which are brought together to symbolize, to evoke, to show characters and scenes. This is what I see when looking up at the sails on the three-masted bark Europa, as we race across the Southern Ocean. Initially, one of my challenges in making the film was how to represent movement in the extreme conditions of the polar regions, without having the camera bump all over the place. By trial and error, I realized I should just let the movement speak for itself, since it is such an important part of the story.

The Blinding Sea has won 25 awards in festivals across North America and Europe, South America and Asia … and has picked up a few Official Selections here and there. This public reception can be represented visually!

The Blinding Sea has won 25 awards in film festivals around the world, plus a few Official Selections …



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