Absent Presence is a screendance film and an audiovisual project by Giorgia PonticelloIt is only 1 minute and 9 seconds long but due to its precise synchronisation between visual wonders and compelling sound design, it has the potential to nest in our minds for a really long time. Absent Presence is created by a small team (cinematographer Jody Hinterleitner, sound designer Simone Meneghelli) and in the rеalm of familiar domestic spaces and objects, and it may serve as an inspiration to every visual artist, director or choreographer in the beginning of their artistic journey. The film is also a reminder to already accomplished artists that the length of the work or the complexity of the chosen language of expression do not necessarily guarantee its worth. 

Georgia Ponticello, who is a director, screenwriter and a performer in the project, works in the field of graphic design and visual arts but has the ambition to further develop her career in theatre and cinema, and to curate festivals and events. She describes herself as a lover of communication who shapes different concepts and ideas through brave experiments. Absent Presence is a result of precisely that kind of goal. The film was part of the selection of the 8th edition of Moving Body Festival and a winner in the ‘Best Low-budget’ project category. The artwork carries the sensitivity of artists whose focus is namely the visual. The shots are beautiful, soft, minimal, elegant, the colours caress the eye and the ‘character’ – a hand without a body – is our guide through the familiar world that can be decoded as unusual. 

Everything begins in the bathroom. In the right half of the frame we see a mirror reflection – bathtub and a faucet tap running. And on the left we see sponges – those that remove our death skin when we rub our bodies. A sponge is a simple and ordinary object but come to think of it – isn’t it a bit bizarre? The hand crawls to one of the sponges and grabs it. Then it disappears but in a second appears again in the other half of the screen to turn the tap off.  A bit later we are in front of a different mirror on top of a grey sofa and a casually placed red pillow. Again, these are objects we don’t think about, they are ‘’just there’’. We can clearly distinguish the brighter part of the frame from the darker – this contrast is a sign for something mysterious. And, yes, the enigmatic hand is here again, holding the mirror and at the same time softly dancing in its reflection. The hand plays and invites us to join, to step beyond, to trust the mirror world and the new logic in which we don’t know how to exist, but we are curious. In the last third of the film we are in the dark. The geography of the surrounding space is of no concern to us – maybe because it resembles a dream more than a reality. On the right – a table and a vase. On the left – shadows. There is no need to guess – the magical is a fact and the truth is flexible and pliable. Instead of seeing the shadow of the frozen-in-time vase, we see the hand and its duplicates (or friends, or enemies, or clones) crawling creepily on the wall. Switch on. The light of the lamp at the end of the film makes everything (almost) normal.

Кадър от Absent Presence с режисьор Джорджия Понтичело

Absent Presence is not only a journey through images, but also a sound experience. The audio environment is symmetrical to what is visible. In the beginning we hear the running water, later, as the hand reaches the mirror on the sofa, we feel as if the sound of the water drops from the previous visual dimension of the bathroom have somehow travelled to here. There is no visible water but the magical choreography drives the imagination of the viewer/listener. In the end of the film the tension rises together with the crawling shadows. The music is also more dynamic and frightening. We wake up by the lamp and until the end we hear only the steady sound of the clock. As if time as we know it returns. We are in reality, but we feel it differently. The transformation is a fact, but we are unable to rationalise it. 

 

The creators of Absent Presence clarify the following – ‘’the word ‘perceive’ from Greek means ‘to touch from a distance’. The film is the surreal journey of a disconnected body in an attempt to find itself in the spaces of an empty house. A game of perceptions, between the ambiguity of reflections and distorted shadows, which leads the viewers to wonder about the relativity of what they are watching’’. Indeed, this creative project makes one ponder. It transports us from the unimpressive world around us – with its details we no longer pay attention to – to memories of surreal collages and avant garde films which we have experienced, dreamed of or would like to create. The oxymoron in the title contributes to the nature of the film – inexplicable contradictions, abstract questions, and answers not through reason but through the senses. 

 

In the novel La Nausée, Jean-Paul Sartre places his character in a tram. He touches one of the seats and in a second pulls his hand back. The seat looks like something extremely strange. Before remembering that the seat is for sitting, he is perplexed and troubled by the feeling of breaking the logical structure ‘object-word for this object’, ‘world-language’, ‘existence-knowledge’. Suddenly, life and its meaning appear as something absurd and unreal. Absent Presence offers a similar view. A hand pulls us in towards everlasting topics such as freedom, imagination, the roles of creator and audience – with an invitation to recognise the extraordinary in our ordinary world. 

The article is translated by Miryana Mezeklieva.


This material was created within the project Translation on Air – a section dedicated to dance for the screen or screendance. Every month we invite the professional and amateur audience, tempted by this intriguing symbiosis between cinema and dance, to join our readings, conversations, and discussions with active practitioners and choreographers in this field from the country and abroad.

The project Translation on Air is implemented with the financial support of the National Fund Culture under the program Audiences 2020 and One-Year Grant 2021.


Видеография и референции: 

Short movie Absent Presence
Video PHYLOSOPHY – Sartre – The School of Life

Ana-Maria Sotirova graduated with a degree in “Film” at the University of Reading, as well as a master’s degree in “Film Studies” at the University of Amsterdam. She is the author of articles in the “Translation on Air” column, part of the activities of the “Moving Body” platform.

Miryana Mezeklieva graduated in Cultural Studies at Sofia University Kliment Ohridski. Since 2008 until today she has been working as a translator of feature films and series for dubbing mainly for the channels of Nova Broadcasting Group.