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Marina VishmidtClick here to Print this Page
Jeanette Iljon
Another salient theme of the film is temporality and the often-theorised inscription of death in the photographic (or filmic image).

On a material plane, the image is subject to processing, manipulation, change and decay, as much an image of the organic life process that can be found in the frame. It is the signifier of an absence, or acts as a substitute, for living presence, a record of being or experience rather than experience itself. It is another sort of experience and mediation. Yet a sequence of those images in a narrative film can so closely simulate lived experience just by moving at a regulated speed. This can only work through an elision of the mechanical fact that fosters this illusion, but, like consciousness, it is capable of reflecting on itself as mediation. This is just what Iljon does, intervening in the illusionistic moment and allowing us to see not just what the magician is actually doing, but the closeness of the film to a magic spell that distracts from the grounding conditions of lack of motion, lack of presence. The processes of stopping, dissolution of the image into febrile granules of stock, aleatory cutting and silence ruptured by snatches of fairground music serve to bring about at once alienation from the spectacle as such (magic show, picture show), and a more intimate perception of the limitless affective and physical potential of the film image in time.

In the earlier Focii, Iljon's interests in Surrealism and movement crystallise into an intense and rigorous piece that takes as its object the permutations of identity, race and desire. A sparse composition of one, then two dancers, conveying isolation, fear and curiosity, it unfolds through a physical syntax in a space bisected and framed by a faceted structure that takes on various functions through the film. Focii develops Iljon's preoccupations with the formal possibilities of dance, masks and costume to evoke ambiguity and the construction of the self.

The original print was tinted aqua, as Iljon wanted to convey an effect of underwater slowness and reflections in the sea. Later prints do not have the tint. The film is also silent, underlining the forceful language of the movements. The film employs medium shot and close up to establish a tempo which comes to provide a thread of continuity in an otherwise unsettling filmic space. The dancer can never really determine who she is looking at, and neither can the viewer. She mimics the other figure, attempting to catch her out with rapid, erratic movements. The other figure could be a reflection of herself, or a self she is projecting onto another. The Lacanian mirror-stage is implied, when the infant subject first comes to see herself as an individual by recognising her image in the mirror. It also suggests the splitting of the self seen in a mirror, and the childish attempt to deal with this anxiety by pretending the person in the mirror is someone else, the uncanny quality of the not-yet self.

Still from Focii by Jeanette Iljon, 1974
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