I Comete: A Corsican Summer (2021) is the debut feature from actor and director Pascal Tagnati. With a feeling of life in a Corsican village passing by, the static camera observes the residents. The long takes and wide shots ask viewers to just watch and listen to the interactions between the locals, who discuss a diverse series of topics, including football, sex, and surrogacy. One man finds himself concerned with losing his happiness, while a girl tries to create a moment of life through her photographs.
Following the screening at the International Film Festival Rotterdam (IFFR), Tagnati speaks with PopMatters about the influence of dreams on his filmmaking, but unlike dreams, the film is a space for personal discussion and not problem-solving.
Why filmmaking as a means of creative expression?
What pushed me to tell these stories is a desire to tell the story about where I’m from, and the world of which I’m a part. It’s not a reality as such, it’s a desire to tell a story about the community, the space, and the people I know, and to also have fun with it.
C.G. Jung contextualised dreams as a means for us to solve the problems we cannot solve in our waking state. Is your approach to filmmaking similar to dreams, in that it allows you to access your thoughts and feelings and to better understand yourself and the place you’re from?
My desire for cinema is to first of all to be a self-reflection of who I am and what’s inside of me, then I have this strange desire to share it with others. There’s a little bit of me in each character, and you’re right to ask the question about dreams because I use them a lot in my work, particularly in my writing. It’s a fundamental part of the research for filmmaking and about myself.
Cinema isn’t a courtroom, it’s not a place where you solve problems. It’s a personal space where you discuss who you are and what makes you the person you are, and who the people around you are.
In regards to the cultural belief of a photograph stealing a part of the person’s soul, by giving yourself over to the intensity of the creative process, does the film capture a part of your soul?
I don’t think we’re stealing a moment of my life or somebody else’s, but maybe it’s a question of capturing it. The actors are doing a job and they know why they’re there. They’re there of their own will interpreting something that has come out of my imagination, and not their own lives. There’s this notion of capturing something organic from that precise moment. Cinema is a means of expression, and it’s of course technical making a film, so I make sure I work with a crew who know what they’re doing. But that part of the filmmaking is not my role – they’re the technicians. For me, it’s about experimenting with the personal questions and the direction.
It’s not so much that it’s spiritual, it’s something more organic. To be honest, I could’ve perhaps been a poet in the same way, only using a different technique.
I Comete left me feeling like a tourist watching the world pass me by. You choose to shoot scenes with uninterrupted wide shots, omitting the cut. The camera and the edit is often our guide in cinema, picking up on certain lines of dialogue or gestures, either moving in closer or pulling away from the action. Your approach forces the audience to be active participants, and experience the moments more alike to how we would in everyday life.
My initial intention was to recreate this feeling of being a passer-by and watching a scene play out in front of us. The filmmaking process was a dialogue between myself and the DoPs, Javier [Ruiz Gómez] and Lucas [Vittori]. They understood my intentions perfectly. It’s not so much about creating a distance between the camera and what’s happening, it’s about finding the right place to have that point of observation.
It was a conscious decision to have an uninterrupted wide shot with a fixed camera. It was the rule of thumb for the whole shoot, and I wanted to leave the actors alone to be able to develop each scene themselves. It was trusting and allowing them space without cutting in the middle of the action. I didn’t want to have excessive cuts that would manipulate the scene. This places more responsibility on the spectator to listen and to watch.
I blindly trust spectators to have the intelligence to be able to view a film made in this way, because all of us in real life are capable of watching a scene without it being cut up for us. Our real lives are much more complicated than films, and so I’m sure you can do it in films too. The spectator becomes a character in this type of filmmaking because they have their own role to play and they’re active in the film.
Our emotions and life experiences influence how we respond to a film, and the appeal of cinema is to share experiences with the characters. Some will be familiar, others we will never experience for ourselves, while others allow us to imagine how those moments that lay ahead may feel.
Each audience member has their personal analysis of a film, and that’s the magic of cinema. It’s how you draw the audience in and create a connection between them and the work. You also find this magic in theatre when a connection or dialogue is created with the audience. Each person brings with them a personal life experience, which is very much part of that magic, and that’s what I like in this kind of filmmaking, and it’s precisely why I want to make films.
Filmmaker Christoph Behl remarked to me, “You are evolving, and after the film, you are not the same person as you were before.” Do you perceive there to be a transformative aspect to the filmmaking process?
Of course, I agree that there’s a before and after to a film. You go through a film and you learn things, you live things, you’re hurt by things, and you come out stronger, as you do with most human experiences. It’s a process that you go through, but the most important thing for me is that the film is behind me.
When I go into a film I’m full to the brim of thoughts and when I come out of the film I’m emptied of all of that. I’ve gotten rid of it all and put it into the film, and so there’s the space, thank God again, for something new. So whether it’s to make a new film or do some gardening, it’s this process of coming out empty, as it were, which means you’re ready for whatever the next thing in life is.