Memory as Triptych

Abstract, creative and deeply original, the Artists’ Film genre questions the notion of narrative, looking to new techniques for a truly unique sense of storytelling. Harold Hutter’s Hôtel de la Comète is part of the 2017 screenings.

ASFF:  How did you begin the process of making your film, where did the idea come from?
HH: I wrote a first draft of Hôtel de la Comète many years ago, after a difficult break-up. About a year ago, I re-watched Don Siegel’s The Killers and was once again struck by its narrative structure and use of flashbacks to advance plot. Transposing that narrative structure into a love story gave my script a new twist and allowed me to get as close as possible to the main protagonist Gabrielle’s inner world. It also allowed me to thread the various images into a more comprehensive whole.

ASFF: How does this film in particular differ or relate to your previous works?
HH: It relates to my two previous short films insofar as they all explore the themes of love, memory, and alienation. I see these three films as a loose trilogy on Eros and the many consequences of struggling with erotic desire. Hôtel de la Comète is nevertheless very different to the previous two films because of its narrative structure, which is less abstract.

ASFF: How far do you think that cinema attempts to communicate the human condition?
HH: I’m not sure any single film ever really communicates the human condition. If anything, the act of creating films is an interpretation of reality, a point of view, an imperfect representation of a less-perfect reality. Some films come closer than others, but I suspect that how we perceive these films will change with the passage of time and the changes that inevitably draw us further from who we once were. Different films speak to different audiences at different times. Therefore, they never communicate more than a very biased (or particular) interpretation of the human condition, which might very well be completely irrelevant to future generations.

ASFF: How important do you find narrative?
HH: I used to be firmly opposed to narrative and the way it seduces audiences. However, I have started to incorporate more traditional narratives into my films, playing with audience expectations and trying to subvert traditional narrative structures. The beauty of narrative lies in how effective it is at hooking the viewer. It’s a great way of tapping into the collective unconscious. From there, the possibilities are endless.

ASFF: How do sound and visuals relate to each other in your short?
HH: Godard once said that in “audiovisuel, audio vient en premier.” As in, audio is more important than images! I used to believe otherwise, but actually, sound and music are the highest art forms – the most direct tool by which to reach emotions. Sylvain Chiesa (my sound editor/mixer) and I worked long days to create in my new film an audio world that sometimes harmonises with the images and sometimes creates dissonance. In essence, the sound design creates a whole new world rife with meaning.

ASFF: How do you respond to new digital methods of image-making? How do you think these compare to analogue film?
HH: I actually started shooting my first films on digital. Four years ago, my friend and cinematographer Alex Nevill proposed that we shoot our next project on super 16mm. That first film experience was a revelation for me. Since then, I have almost exclusively worked on celluloid. They both have advantages, but for me, shooting on celluloid is a magical act, something almost mystical. That magic doesn’t exist with digital cameras. Digital cameras are cold, surgical – a simulation of nothingness. Film is warm, imprecise, emotive, and engenders beautiful accidents that are truer to our experience of the world. I wonder what Marshall McLuhan would have to say about this shift and whether one could say that the digital camera “has a message”?

ASFF runs 8-12 November. For more information or to book tickets:

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1. Teaser for Hôtel de la Comète.