Failles © Annik Leroy

Failles by Annik Leroy

Faces, close, looking and thinking. They don’t all speak. Sometimes, it’s as if the music goes through them or something animates them—something that we cannot see. Wars. Memory, narrative, fictional or real images of history interfere with everyone's story. A crack in the rock, in the skull, hills against the light, the hammering of a projector, helicopter music. A fault. 

Statement of Intent

Behind my desire to make this film lies the notion of an encounter between the ideas of Hannah Arendt and Jerusalem’s Wailing Wall and Temple Mount, the sculptures of Brancusi in Târgu Jiu and the musical composition of Stockhausen “Helikopter-Streichquartett”.

The word “faille” embodies the essence of this film project. Faults can lead to earthquakes or landslides. Interior faults increase our sensitivity, cause anxiety and plunge us into limit states.

In my last film, Tremor, the landscapes of Iceland formed the starting point of my research and my motivation. In this case it is faces.

The film will present a series of portraits of people, chosen for their unique position within a certain point in time, and their artistic and political engagement. Using words or in silence, each portrait will present a person and the places they inhabit or pass through, which have left a mark on them. By following the flow of my exchanges with the characters and my own connections, I will attempt to present and make heard their signs of strength and weakness, evidence of their choices and their wanderings.

I see their faces age, inviting us to reflect on the passage of time and the occurrence of faults during the course of our lives. Faces seen from the front or behind, silent or animated through speech, faces captured through a frontal, fixed, constrained framing, permeated by desynchronised sounds or the presence of music.

I will film each thought as it unfolds through the fluttering of eyelids, a glance as it disappears in front of the camera. I will capture the subtle expressions of physical life in the movement of the body and facial expressions.

Project Description

The first sequence of the film might focus on the painting of a small plane engraved on a rock. At the crossroads of Avenue Louise and Avenue Emile De Mot in Brussels lies a commemorative statue in honour of Baron Jean de Selys Longchamps.

On 20 January 1943, this Belgian officer, flying with the British Royal Air Force, carried out an airstrike on the headquarters of the German Gestapo, spraying the building’s façade with bullets. He carried out this radical action on his own initiative without authorisation from his superiors. I often pass this junction and it is rare that anyone ever stops at this now dilapidated monument.

In the first sequence we might also see a hand covering the eyes of a child. We hear the film Rome, Open City by Roberto Rossellini in the background. A man is being tortured by the Gestapo. The child tries to spread the fingers of the adult so as to see, but is not able to.

Two small photos with jagged edges taken in the trenches at Diksmuide (Belgium). The child smiles proudly in front of the photograph. Some years later at school, he discovers “King and Country” by Joseph Losey. No one covers his eyes. The rhythmic whirring of the projector, the jumping images and the scratching impair the view of the images of the Great War.

Sarajevo, autumn 2017. I take in the five hills which overlook and encircle the whole city. Violent images and the sound of machine guns continually take me back and, with that, comes fear.

Sejla L. was still a child at the time of the siege of Sarajevo. Sejla understands the people who want to leave Sarajevo, but she respects those who remain. Young people try to change the course of things and to find solutions to move forward in this deadly city.

“What do we have to do ?” she asks. I am unable to reply.

The hills watch us. And I would like to see Selja walk on the abandoned bobsleigh track, on the outskirts of the city. During the war, the luge tracks and ski jump, vestiges of the 1984 Olympic Games, were converted to rocket launch ramps or bunkers.

Roger R.  lives amid the rocks near the village of Beauregard in Lot (France). For twenty years, this sculptor has been hollowing out the ground and pulls back the ground in order to strip bare the “source rock”. Erecting a natural rock rampart around this large work site, he creates a sacred site. About his unusual artistic mission, Roger writes : “Under the daily and repeated assaults of the pickaxe, dreamlike landscapes are slowly born, while the body gradually irrevocably burrows between the walls … The intimate experience of hollowing, within the confines of the real and the imaginary, appear incommunicable to me…”

Well before withdrawing into the forest and dedicating himself to his site, Roger welcomed autistic children to his home and offered them inspired support using the approach of Fernand Deligny, whom he met several times.

Franz-Peter V.B. was born in Antwerp to a Flemish father and German mother.

As a young adult, he joined Fernand Deligny’s community in Cévennes where he had a formative experience in a place of artistic experimentation open to welcoming autistic children.

Franz was forty years old when he lost his adopted son in a car accident. This shock turned his life and his beliefs upside down.

Then, in collaboration with Jacques Aron, he dedicated himself to writing a book – “The Anthology of Bauhaus”. Always in search of a new aspect to life, he retired in a Benedictine monastery in the Dordogne where he led a monastic and solitary life for several years. Since then, he has returned to civilisation and moved to Görlitz near the Polish border, where he continues to write and conduct research in relation to art and architecture.

Christophe A. works as an art therapist for two institutions in Brussels which welcome children with autism or mental health issues. A musician, he gives children the chance to encounter his instrument, the drums. Outside of work, he also gives workshops where everyone is free to experiment and to play in order to create a unique connection with this object of sound.

I would like to use this energy that Christophe manages to channel through his instrument and be an active witness to the links which he manages to weave with the children, thanks to his music.

At this point, there is a hole in the film.

I have the idea of reworking the sequence with the children after having developed the film. I would like to make cuts in the celluloid material and to reshoot the screening of a pierced film. A new sequence with a syncopated rhythm would show the faces of the children riddled with moments of white light.

Laura W. was born in London in 1970. She has made several videos of which “Cargo”(2001) tells the story of a journey undertaken on a cargo ship bound for the Middle East with Romanian and Filipino sailors on board. In “Border” (2004), Laura films Afghan and Iranian refugees in Sangatte trying to cross the channel tunnel in order to reach England.

Until 2009, Laura was living in Jordan, where she undertook interviews with Iraqi refugees fleeing the war. Since then, she has been based in Lisbon where she continues her writing work.

Laura is a listener, drawn to conflicts, lives devastated by war and domestic strife. I expect Laura to shake up the way in which we understand conflict and human folly. I would like to enable memories to emerge from moments in her life, and through that, the turmoil which illuminates her face and voice.

Ruben D. was born in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Following his studies at the Institute of Informationand Communication Sciences, he took part in the PhysicalRehabilitation Programme of the International Committeeof the Red Cross.

In Kinshasa, he is an amateur singer in different choirs and is realising the quality of his countertenor voice. When he came to Belgium in 2015, Ruben joined several choirs of religious, classical and world music. In the chorale Voix de voyageurs directed by Lucy Grauman, each person learns and sings music of the participants, among whom are asylum seekers, illegal immigrants and political refugees. Ruben joins this project as a singer and human rights activist.

Jean V. is a lecturer in the Politics Department of the Faculty of Philosophy at ULB in Brussels. He is a researcher with a sharp critical mind and reads and writes all day. I see Jean as a facilitator who can enable me to develop Hannah Arendt’s thinking.

I imagine Hannah Arendt still young, on the go, walking for hours between the camp of Gurs and the town of Montauban, looking for documents, enquiring about news of her husband and searching for food. At the time, under the Vichy regime, Gurs was a Jewish internment camp. To maintain the rhythm of her walking, Hannah Arendt recites alouda poem by Rainer Maria Rilke: “Chevaucher, chevaucher, chevaucher, le jour, la nuit, le jour”.

Jean is also an active member of the UPJB (Union of Progressive Jews of Belgium). He constantly questions the origins and history of, and what is topical about, anti-Semitism.

Jean has been to Jerusalem, where some of his family still live, many times. When I ask him about Temple Mount, Jean exclaims that it is an impossible place to film because of its geographical landscape: “It’s a large rock,” he tells me,  “The Wailing Wall is below and Temple Mountis above. It’s physically impossible to film both at the same time!”

The Sculptural Ensembleof Constantin Brancusi is situated on the site of Târgu Jiu in Romania. The Gate of the Kiss marks the entrance to the park, inside which the Table of Silence can be found, then the visitor climbs a long path up to The Endless Column.

I visited this place when I was shooting my film Vers la mer. At that time, all the social outcasts, the homeless and amputees of the small town, would wait for the few visitors who came, to beg for money and to accompany them on their visits. The Endless Column seemed like it had been abandoned in the middle of a non-descript place covered in rubbish.

The place has no doubt changed since then, but the sculptures remain.

Brancusi was born 20km from there, in a village called Hobita. Last October, the home where he was born collapsed, and with it, the small museum dedicated to the artist. It was demolished as there was no longer anyone living there. Some time later, the villagers set up a chicken farming cooperative in the courtyard of the house.

Today, I wonder how the name Brancusi resonates with the Hobita locals and I would like to visually capture the contrast and the proximity between the scuptural work and the reality of the Romanian village which surrounds it.

At the end of the film, I introduce the musical presence of Karlheinz Stockhausen: “It was while I was dreaming: I saw and heard the quartet musicians playing whilst in flight in four helicopters… The musicians play mostly quavers which harmonise so well with the tone and the rhythm of the rotor blades, such that the helicopters become like musical instruments.”

Stockhausen created a musical performance which removes the boundaries between scenic space and the outdoors. The music descends from the sky towards the ground upon the listener. The assault of the pounding of the propellers is united with the music, producing an incredible energy. This is how we enter Jerusalem.

Jerusalem. The Wailing Wall, 15 metres high and 150 metres long. A crowd of believers come to pray against the wall and place paper on which they write their wishes. Due to there being few cracks in the Wall, these papers fall to the ground and are collected each day. Twice a year, a large clean-up is organised to remove paper from the cracks.

“Jerusalem syndrome” affects tourists on pilgrimage to the Holy City. Anxiety, stress, isolation and obsession over purifying the body are the main symptoms. Not far from Jerusalem, the psychiatric hospital Kfar Shaul has opened a special unit to aid people afflicted by this syndrome.

It is situated in the village of Deir Yassin, an ancient Palestinian village partly destroyed by the Israeli army at the time of the massacre perpetrated in 1948. The hospital was established from the remains of these Palestinian houses.

Upon reaching this point, I feel I can write the words “THE END”.

ANNIK LEROY (1952),started out making short films, including Le paradis terrestre, Undermost #1, NBC and Ekho.In 1981 she made In der Dämmerstunde Berlin de l'aube à la nuit, which was presented at the Berlin International Film Festival and screened by the German TV channel ZDF. In 1999, her feature film Vers la merwas presented at the Berlin International Film Festival and won various international prizes. In 2000, she made the short film fffff+pppppwith music by Galina Ustvolskaya as part of “Muziek in beeld” with the contemporary music ensemble Q-O2. In 2006, her videoCellule 719was presented at the Rotterdam and Amsterdam festivals. Her book of photographs and texts Danube-Hölderlinwas published by Editions la Part de l'oeil in 2002. In addition to her filmography, she has also worked on photography exhibitions and audiovisual installations. These include Isolés, Ici (2003-2004, Galerie Balthazart, Tournai and Librairie des Quartier Latins, Brussels), (Psycho) Zerreisswolf(2005, Versus III, Oudenaarde – 2006, exhibition “Fractions lentes”Brussels with Marcel Berlanger and Julie Morel), Lieber wütend als traurig(2006, De Markten, Brussels), Unheimlich schwer/politisch(2007, Kunstraum Kreuzberg Bethanien, Berlin), Meinhof.(2007, MuKHA, Antwerp – 2008, Kunstenfestivaldesarts), and the installation/performance Regarding with Isabelle Dumont and Virginie Thirion (2008, Kunstenfestivaldesarts).

In 2017, her feature film TREMOR, Es ist immer Kriegwas presented at Kunstenfestivaldesarts Brussels, FID Marseille, Underdox Munich, 12 Pravo Ljudski festival Sarajevo, Filmer à tout prix Brussels. In 2018-2019:  Fronteira festival Goiânia, Brazil, award best film. Ann Arbor festival, Michigan. Artist in focus at Courtisane festival, Gent. Arkipel festival, Djakarta. Glasgow international festival, etc.

Production: Cobra Films

Stage of development: in development

Involved Participants
Annik Leroy