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Public Places, Private Thoughts
Nicky Hamlyn
Public Places, Private Thoughts
Nina Danino's claustrophobic film First Memory narrates the often strange and disconcerting experience of childhood encounters with adults.

The work, which was originally a tape/slide piece that has been transferred to 16mm film, is formed from a slow succession of static shots of the contents of a room. The steadily paced cutting is occasionally varied by lengthy dissolves. The imagery consists of details of the floral prints on china plates and knick knacks, patterned wallpaper, and of deep shadows and slits of bright light entering between closed curtains, or cast upwards from a table lamp onto a small framed picture of an unidentifiable landscape. The evocation of a dusty, melancholic and slightly neglected space, full of an old woman's objects, is reminiscent of the description of a darkened room in Bruno Schulz's 1934 novel Street of Crocodiles.

The monologue, recited by the granddaughter of the film's subject, shifts between various registers, offering a mix of blunt personal evaluation: "her hips were wide, like her face. She was not beautiful" with prosaic topography: "behind the garden wall, the incline to the sea" to more intimate moments of reported speech: "She said 'come upstairs with me my dear'". Rude life; strong light, colours and sounds, is always outside, kept at bay. The inside world of the film is a carefully controlled, genteel and desiccated environment of momentos; fabrics, ornaments and pictures.

The film evokes a world that is newly strange to its young narrator, and familiar to anyone who has made occasional visits to grandparents, or great aunts and uncles: a remote, dusty and curious world of objects that have outlived their utility, but which live on as markers to periods of a life all but over.

Still from First Memory by Nina Danino, 1981
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