A film by Helena Wittmann
Drift, Helena Wittmann, Germany, 2017, 98'
First reference: in 1967, Canadian experimental film director Michael Snow presented one of his most famous works, Wavelength, a forty-minute zoom accompanied by a mysterious futuristic and electronic soundtrack that shows an overall view of a New York loft as its first image, then very slowly zooms in little by little towards one of the photographs stuck to the flat's wall, discovering an image of the ocean.
Second reference, in this case, in the form of a quote:
"Never until then had I felt this enormous presence as I do now, this powerful and uncompromising silence, this secret force that regularly animated the waves. Immobile, a fixed gaze, I lost myself in a universe of inertia until then unknown. I slipped down an irresistible slope. I identified with this silent, colossal fluid, as if I had forgiven it for everything, without the least effort, without a word, without a thought".
This second image-description of an ocean is from the end of the science fiction novel Solaris, published in 1961 by Polish writer Stanislav Lem, and later adapted to film by Tarkovski (1972) and Steven Soderbergh (2002).
These two formal, aquatic references from the 1970s can help us understand the true dimension of the film we present today, the first full-length feature film by German director Helena Wittmann.
Two women spend a weekend together near the sea: they stroll, chat about the future and the weather forecast, go to a cafe, and wake up in a hotel room... One of them is about to return to Argentina, all of this could be part of a farewell. That's when, as if by zooming in closer and closer to the true story that is hidden behind these first images, the sea takes everything. A sail boat crosses the Atlantic ocean, and never in a film has the sea had as much power as in this offering: land disappears, one wave follows another, the sky and the water merge, and give way to a sight that could be that of an unknown planet, a water planet with its own rules and rhythms. The sea completely takes over the narration and sound, and that is what it is about, a warning to audiences that they must let themselves be swept away.
Sometimes film offers experiences -perceptive, aesthetic, and vital- that go beyond conventional narratives. Sometimes film offers space and time so that something extraordinary can occur on the screen. This is when we recover Stanislav Lem's quote, that precisely and surprisingly serves as an instruction manual for this film's audience: "Immobile, a fixed gaze, I lost myself in a universe of inertia until then unknown. I slipped down an irresistible slope. I identified with this silent, colossal fluid, as if I had forgiven it for everything, without the least effort, without a word, without a thought". This is letting go, losing ourselves. This is entering into this film with no preconceived notions, and giving in. Throwing ourselves into film. Plunging in. Without fear. The film and its story is also comprised of experiences and offerings of this type.
Real journeys and films change us within, and that is their essence. That is the question that we can ask ourselves when we leave this film session: Have we changed? How have we changed? Then we can walk to our city's Cantabrian Sea and continue searching.
Premièring at the Venice Film Festival's Critic's Week, Special Mention at the Zinebi Bilbao, and recently shown in the Bright Future section of the 2018 Rotterdam International Film Festival.
We would like to thank the ZINEBI Bilbao festival for providing the subtitles for this session.