Chris' Daily Diary 1: The differently, Molussia Draw

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Nicolas Rey's 16mm film screens at EIFF

By long tradition, the film director is supposed to be wield godlike authority over sound and image. It is rarely acknowledged (in fact, it could almost be called the dirty secret of cinema) that the conditions of projection are almost never under the direct control of the filmmaker, who sends his or her film out in the world to be projected by strangers, more or less capably, in cinemas of various sizes, shapes and properties. Each screening is a singular attempt at realisation, a unique intervention in the biography of a film. 

Ordinarily, the scope of this intervention is limited. With differently, Molussia, however, the filmmaker, Nicolas Rey, requires the projectionist to determine the order in which the parts of the film will be shown.

The film arrived at Filmhouse last week in a wonderful leather case containing nine short 16mm film reels, nine coloured cards and detailed instructions (in French and English). Each card represents a reel of the film. The instructions explain that the cards should be drawn in a random order before each screening to determine the order in which the reels are shown.

For the press and industry screening on 19 June, Programme Manager James Rice picked the cards. For the first public show on Thursday 21 June, I drew them. Perhaps we'll get an audience member at that screening to pick the order for the final show, which will take place on Sunday 24 June.

A travelogue of an imaginary country, set in an unreal time, differently, Molussia draws on an anti-fascist book written in the early 1930s by a future exile from Nazi Germany, the philosopher Günther Anders. Called The Molussian Catacomb, the book describes an imaginary totalitarian system. The film Rey generates on the basis of this text is yet another closed system, imitating the closure of the system of Anders’s novel (in which prisoners of the Molussian state tell one another stories about the outside world), which in turn responded to the closed system of the fascist state that was in the process of transforming reality.

By letting the projection order be randomly determined, Rey opens all these closed systems to chance, while acknowledging, in an extraordinary manner, the uniqueness of each screening of a film.

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Chris Fujiwara is the Artistic Director of the Edinburgh International Film Festival.

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