Chiara Berrevoets completed this video essay under the supervision of David Verdeure at LUCA School Of Arts, Belgium. (2019) This interview was originally published in Notes on Videographic Criticism on April 11, 2021.
This is such a beautiful and poetic video essay. Did you write the script before choosing the images or while you were selecting the images? How did each influence the other?
The text was created during the editing process. As is the case with most of my projects, I didn’t work with a preconceived structure. The images and the process of selecting them determined the exact direction the video essay and its voice-over text eventually took. This was a very intuitive process really. Since Terrence Malick’s visuals always resonate very strongly with me, on an almost visceral level, I didn’t find it hard to start from that feeling and work my way towards words.
From the outset I had some images in my head that I wanted to use. The opening shots for example: they set the tone for what is to come. The music Malick himself uses, in his complete filmography, also served as a guide and an inspiration while editing.
Next, all I had to do was take a step back and look at my own edit. Then it became a matter of articulating the questions that had given rise to the particular form the video essay was taking. I needed to address the topics that concerned me at the time, and those were very personal... I was young, I was looking for answers that I suspected I might never get. But sometimes you don't have to look too far at all: the answers are right there with and in you. In a way that’s what Malick’s movies are also about.
Clearly, this is a deeply personal piece. How did you go about selecting images? Are these the images that most resonated with you? How much of this piece was constructed from memory vs searching through the films for images?
Like I said there were parts that I knew from the start I wanted to use, for example the shots from The Tree of Life and The New World. I had watched both those films at a fairly young age and they stayed with me ever since.
Interestingly enough, I feel that even as a child I understood those movies extremely well, perhaps because some of the characters are also children. One might even argue that the questions those characters struggle with run parallel to those in my voice-over. In addition, I often recognized Malick’s visuals (a hand reaching for a touch, a beam of light) in my immediate surroundings. They felt present in my own daily life.
But I also went searching for certain visual elements that recur in his films, such as certain gestures, images of water and nature... These I eventually grouped and combined into chapters in the essay, allowing for more focus on certain topics.
How did you first come up with the idea for this essay and this notion of haptic filmmaking to describe the work of Malick?
The essay was made during my years studying Film and Television at LUCA School Of Arts in Genk (Belgium). In the first bachelor year, I had made a short film which was evaluated by several teachers. One of them mentioned I had a 'haptic' approach that reminded him of Terrence Malick. At the time the term was new to me, but I found it very fascinating.
The teacher who introduced me to this term was David Verdeure and he taught a class in Audiovisual Criticism the following year. And of course we had to make a video essay in his class... I immediately pitched him my idea to make a video essay about the subject of 'haptic filmmaking’, and Malick’s name again came up. Having already seen works by Malick, feeling connected to his world and his imagery, well... I just followed to my instincts.
Your voiceover in this piece is brilliant. How did you go about selecting a tone for the piece and recording your voice? Do you have any tips for someone who may be looking to create a voiceover essay like yours?
To be honest: just listen to your own voice. Literally and figuratively. Don't try to perform something that doesn't feel like yourself. Especially not like in a piece (like this one) where you're trying to say something about yourself just as much as you’re talking about a movie or filmmaker.
This video essay was very personal indeed, and using my own voice was part of the intimacy of that process. I was simply having an honest conversation: with myself and with the viewer.