Tea time with Erebeta

Meeting with...

Interview with François Vogel, director of Erebeta

la mouche cf Did the film begin with the music, or did you choose it after having the idea of creating this visual journey?
I went to Japan for a festival (thanks for festivals!) and I did a lot of walking about in Sapporo where the festival was taking place, and in Tokyo where I spent a few days. I found this trip greatly sparked my inspiration. I took the elevators, climbed the fire escapes… the verticality of the town fascinated me. Walking long and wide, from bottom to top, this is what inspired my short film. The music came afterwards. I looked for traditional music for both the cultural contrast with modern Japan and also for the “bouncing” sonorities of classical percussion. The song “Kuroda Bushi” had all of those qualities, as well as a particular charm through the interpretation by singer Fumie Hihara.

la mouche cf Do the lyrics to the song have a particular meaning? And does “Erebeta” indeed translate as “Elevator”?
Yes, “Erebata” is an a word that comes from the English “Elevator”. With regard to the lyrics, there is no relation to elevators. The song “Kuroda Bushi” is an old folk song that speaks of warriors and alcohol. I don’t understand any Japanese, but the translation I was given seemed to work well with the images. What happened in the past is more evoked than told, it is more impressions than facts. As such, the visual illustration can head off in distant directions all in provoking unexpected and rich connections with the lyrics for someone who understands the language.

la mouche cf As you directed Erebeta, to what extent were you carried away by the desire to create poetry (or “wabi-sabi”) in the heart of this city?
We often associate short film with the short story (and feature-length film with the novel), but personally, I find the essence of short film to be closer to poetry than to the short story, if anything by comparing the time it takes to watch with the time it takes to read (we can also see that a short story can easily be adapted to a feature-length film). I also find that the term “short film” is a bit poor, it evokes a measuring tape which may have lost a few centimeters! The “wabi-sabi” in my film can perhaps be found in the mixture between the raw camera footage and the sophistication of post-production. There is also the confrontation between old and new that appears between the images and the music.

la mouche cf How did you capture the images? Did you use cranes?
Erebeta was entirely filmed on foot. I shot through the windows of Tokyo elevators, from the Ferris Wheel perched on the tops of Sapporo buildings. Certain sequences were created through “morphings” between photos taken at each floor of the fire escape. This film was realized without a plan, a camera in a bag, randomly filming along my walks.

la mouche cf What did you find interesting in the relationship between the snow and the clouds?
My two trips to Sapporo both took place in the winter. There was snow, so that is what I filmed! Even if my films aren’t documentaries, I like filming things the way they are. And then I put them together differently by changing their form. Most of the time in cinema, the fake is used to make the real. We dramatize scenes with lighting to make the images more intense, significant, or simply more visible. We add rain or storms to make emotions stronger. Paradoxically, it is the artificial that makes us believe. In my work, the artificial takes place afterwards, after shooting the raw images. We could almost say that I make the fake with the real…

la mouche cf Are there any particular freedoms that the short film format allows you?
I always have the opportunity to approach my creative work with complete freedom. I don’t plan anything, I am entirely autonomous when I film, without authorizations or funding. I often let my inspiration lead me and I don’t write scripts. The things I see around me are what inspire me, ideas form around impressions, then a film structure starts to form which results in a kind of film. I sometimes have doubts about this somewhat improvised approach and tell myself that maybe I should write more! But this great freedom is also possible because my films are offbeat and a bit pasted together. A traditional short film is as complex as a feature-length film. It requires lighting, expensive camera equipment, film production, makeup, etc. We need the same things for the short format but for a shorter amount of time. The film crews are the same. And normally, the end credits are often as long as those for a feature-length film! Despite all this, I find more freedom in short films because the audience has fewer pre-formatted expectations when it’s short, which makes them more open to discovering things that lay beyond the norm…

Erebeta is being shown in Labo Competition L5.

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