“In the end, what remains is a confused, dreamlike feeling,” says Laura Weisenberger of her short film Eating Earth. From images and stories pervasive and from her own and collective memories and projections, the director creates a cinematic space in memory of her Colombian roots: a tangible and fragmented surreal universe in which countless stories and ghostly characters live. “Eating Earth” is new to Cinema Next Series and can be streamed for free. We asked Laura Weisenberger for an interview.
© Laura Weissenberger / Sophia Wiegele – Film from the movie “Eating Earth”
“Eat Earth” is the next release in Cinema Next Series, which regularly offers exciting movies to local movie talent for free on the Kino VOD Club streaming platform.
In your own words, what is the topic of “eating the earth”?
Laura Weisenberg: “Eat the Earth” is a personal journey back into my memories of a city that never existed before. The film is an exploration of a feeling fueled by images that in turn have to do with collective memory and the way memories are formed. A girl jumping into different stories living in different rooms, together they make a house. However, the girl is more of a ghost or avatar than a real person, and so are the other characters in some way. Family relationships fade, as do the boundaries between fictional and documentary reality. In the end, what remains is a confused, dream-like feeling, an imprint of individual impressions on the retina.
You live and work as a film director and theater maker in Austria, but in “Eat Earth” you deal with the stories of Colombian women. Where did the idea for the film come from and how do you deal with these women, their stories, and the Colombian culture?
Born in Colombia but involved with society in Austria, I always felt as if the part that others consider “home” or “belonging” is intangible to me. There were only scattered images, fueled by images, what my parents told me, and phantom pain. Due to the complicated family history of my mother, who has not been in Colombia herself since 1997, I had no relationship with my relatives remaining there, only with very good friends, all of whom also appear in the film. In the course of the project, I got close to my family again, gave interviews, visited them and told my story further.
The film was like a protective shield that enabled me to get as close to my resume as needed. I relate to the women and men in the film through camaraderie and partly through kinship, but also through stories of loss, pain, longing, and joy. The stories they tell are often not their own, and yet there is something of a collective narrative body that we met for this film through which the performers manage to empathize with certain narratives.
“This is the house I remember,” the voiceover says at the beginning. The ‘architecture’ of this house is special, never to be fully explored, but it remains a vaguely muddled construction of fragments. Was the film’s structure planned with a shot before shooting, or did it appear during the editing process?
In the planning phase of the film, I drew a floor plan of a house consisting of individual rooms for my memory places. Whenever I think of Colombia, I imagine these places as one cohesive place, its stories on repeat Play in these rooms. Scenes and places were then added to the site, and the typed images were automatically expanded. A lot of things came about through the collaboration and powers of watch between my partners Marie Storminger and Sophia Wigley. However, getting together with Samira Kahramani was the last piece in the puzzle. We had a lot of material and had to grope our way through long editing sessions to find a coherent arrangement of scenes and rooms. It was condensed and a thread was put into the maze: the girl who jumps through the stories.
The condition of the ground under bare feet, the textures of the fabrics, the consistency of the moist soil – one would almost think that one could feel, smell, or even taste things, objects, and spaces. How and according to the criteria you searched for and found these haptic images?
This was a development that happened at the site and also with my team. However, for many of the images, I also tried to identify how perception works and the components that make up the feeling of a place. Together with sound designer Matthias Ermert, we spent hours fiddling with sound that brings us close to almost three dimensions of what’s on display. Because for me it was the interaction of many small details and noise, the subjective viewpoint of the camera, that creates that feeling of immersion that I wanted for the film.
In my experience, images disintegrate over time and become an outdated abstract dream. To tie this dream together and further claim the home, I had previously searched the homes of my friends and relatives for repetition of similar objects and images in each family home. Among other things, I came across pictures of girls who had just received the sacrament in white dresses alongside newly married young women who were also wearing white dresses. I couldn’t get those images out of my head, and neither did the tiled floors and concrete Lavadrosthe same photos of men in ties and a side parting found their way home.
I studied theater design at the Academy of Fine Arts. In your cinematic work, there is a constant oscillation between proximity and distance, familiarity and eccentricity, not least between documentary gesture and expressive theatrical presentation. How do you balance these “Eat Earth” interrelationships, especially when working with actors?
This relationship of proximity and distance that you speak of is very similar to my relationship with these memories. When I first stood in my family’s kitchen in Cali, I immediately burst into tears at the apparent difference. This sense of familiarity and alienation was also our feeling during filming. We were a kind of invader, trying as gently as possible to seize something that did not belong to us. This fine line in documentary work still worries me, also in connection with my distinguished position as white To come to Colombia and shoot a movie there.
In the movie, I’ll differentiate between the “Interview” scenes that were set and acted out from the start, and the rest. And when working with actors, it was important for me in these interview scenes to craft a clear task, like this exercising on gym equipment or meditating splashing water to take your focus off the camera. However, they all turned out to be professional storytellers and the first or second shot was often the best. Aside from a few details, the rooms are actually a lot less organized than they look.
Do you have a personal favorite scene in “Eat Earth”, and if so, can you explain what makes that scene so special to you?
There are some scenes that I like a lot, but one part that still touches me a lot is the moment when Señora Marina talks about her failed childhood love, she stops abruptly and loses the thread. Although she was probably telling this story for the thousandth time, she had forgotten for a moment what she actually wanted to tell. This moment reminds me that our memories consist of what has not been forgotten and condense over time until they finally disappear. The scene also shows a habit of suffering from patriarchal structures, resulting in a massive fatigue that can also be seen in other stories.
Series of interviews in collaboration with Next Cinema – Young film from Austria.