Stefan, a Romanian construction worker living in Brussels, is on the verge of moving back home. He cooks up a big pot of soup with leftovers in his fridge, to hand out as a goodbye gift to friends and family. As he is ready to go, he meets a Belgian-Chinese young woman who works in a little restaurant while preparing a doctorate on mosses. Her attention for the near-invisible stops him in his tracks.
“As I started working on this film, I got hold of a handheld magnifying glass. When I bring piece of glass close to my eye, I see what is in front of me, magnified twenty times. I regularly go on walks with Geert Raeymaekers, a bryologist, an expert on mosses. He is a kind, warm man. Together, we gaze through our magnifying glasses at the tiny world beneath our feet. He identifies the many varied species we hold between our fingers and calls them by their mysterious Latin names. Syntrichia laevipila, Kindbergia praelonga.
Naming things is the first step in learning to look at them, writes Robin Wall Kimmerer in her book Gathering Moss. It is a way of entering into an intimate, nurturing relationship with the world.
When Geert and I look up from that world beneath our feet, everywhere, between the greenery and overgrown concrete, we see cans, bottles, cigarette packets, empty crisp bags, toilet paper, some lonely shoes, a broken umbrella and a bicycle. If we knew the names of all the mosses, plants and trees around us, would this place look different? We take an imaginary stroll towards a way out from this squalid wasteland, following a trail upon our ailing planet. It takes quite a bit of imagination to envision any other future than a dystopian wasteland.
As [Donna] Haraway writes: “... it matters what stories we tell to tell other stories with; it matters what thoughts think thoughts, [...] It matters what stories make worlds, what worlds make stories.”.
I can think of no better medium than film, to envision that other future, to tell that other story, to ‘world’ that other world.”
Maria Giovanna Vagenas: Here has a wonderfully quiet pace, allowing us to truly observe and listen.
Bas Devos: The question of tempo is an interesting one. The right tempo is at least as mysterious as the right frame. There is, of course, the tempo on set, that is to say, everything that is montage within the frame. Of course, you have to be very much in tune with the moment and you have to be very attentive in understanding whether a scene is too long or whether an action is eventually too fast or too slow, meaningful or not meaningful enough. That’s one kind of tempo, the tempo within the camera. The tempo in the editing process, once you start to put images next to each other, is a completely different way of sensing time. I am always in debt to my editor, Dieter Diependaele, because he teaches me, time and time again, to perceive the passing of time in the editing and to understand the meaning of a cut. This process is very natural to him, while for me it is much more natural to understand tempo on a set. That’s the mystery! The mystery is that he brings in his sensitivity about length, duration and, most importantly, the non-existing images between two frames, between images that I still don’t really understand. Even after making four films, for me that is still something truly magical.
Bas Devos in conversation with Maria Giovanna Vagenas2