Munro, David

Shimmering allegories for post-modern lovers. Toss another log on the fire...then jump in!



1L2P Theoretical Issues

"Space" Talk

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For Derek, a luger (sled racer) from a former Eastern Bloc republic, the winds of change swirling about the region contain a telling bit of irony. As a child, his skull was surgically-altered to make him the world's most aerodynamic human. Outside the lee of the system that shaped him, freedom can only be a drag. Shifting winds become the greatest test of his resiliency.

Bullethead is a stylized political allegory conceived in response to this question: what would it mean to wake up one morning and find your system of beliefs had evaporated as though they never existed? (Kill the roots, and the bloom can't be long to follow.)

1993 16mm film, b&w/sound 13 minutes Available through Grotto Films, 2148 Market Street, San Francisco, CA, 94114

first love second planet

Crystal is a damaged lover who seeks romance on a barren planet she conjures while lovemaking. 1L2P is a travelogue of her emotional landscape.

The idea came from a relationship with a friend who is an incest survivor. What attracted me to her story was the way she consciously assigned trauma to a poetic realm (dissociative fantasy). From a hellish experience sprang this devastatingly beautiful expression of a place where intimacy was impossible.

In the film, the main character's failure to locate intimacy is tragic, but her irrepressible longing to love is perversely life-affirming. In the tradition of absurdist theater, Crystal becomes an existential hero by challenging the impossibility of communion in a harsh and reckless world.

The film regards its premise of trauma displacement not as a plot mandate, but rather as a structuring principle. The dialectic of fact and fabrication operates not toward a linear resolution, but as two competing realities attempting to occupy a single space. The result is a resonance more affecting than any single "outcome." A viewer should feel this film more deeply than she or he sees it.

To date, most of the films that have dealt with the subject of incest have occupied two ends of the generic spectrum: namely, made-for-TV movies and PBS-style documentaries. Whatever their intention, these treatments--the family melodrama and the classical documentary--work to order and contain a phenomenon that expresses itself through transgression. By contrast, 1L2P seeks to (formally) accommodate the experience of incest survivors who ask, "Let me be as crazy as this makes me!"

1996 16mm film, color/sound 17 minutes Available through Grotto Films, 2148 Market Street, San Francisco, CA, 94114

1L2P Theoretical Issues

There are two theoretical issues that concerned me with regard to 1L2P--one formal, and one ideological.

The formal issue is one that filmmakers have tangled with since Melies first pointed his camera at "the man in the moon." That is, how to integrate fantasy and reality, particularly as it is perceived by a narrative subject, on the celluloid strip.

Filmmakers have developed methods of "photographing thought" that range from the sublime to the ridiculous. They have sought effect through performance, editing, camera trickery, story structure, and even those little wavy lines that descend upon the screen to signal "dream starting now." The most pedestrian (and often technical) of these solutions have become narrative conventions that do little to shake a viewer loose from the comfort of his or her own expectations.

The least interesting approach to integrating fantasy and reality is to treat them as antipodes in a tidy imaginal world. For a character like the woman in 1L2P, past and present realities can hardly be separated. To do so would be to lobotomize the film, and to make safe the viewing experience. My goal was to collide the reality of incest with platonic notions of love to create a third, more profound sense of the alienating effect of betrayal by a "loved one." It's not unlike how Eisenstein described his notion of "overtonal montage:"

. . .a fresh flood of pure physiologism. . .echoes, in the highest degree of intensity, an endless pro- cess of revealing new aspects, relationships, an endless process of deepening human perception of things.

I meant to arrive at such a "place of echoes" by locating associations--visual, aural, verbal, symbolic, emotional, rhythmic--within a scene that would bleed into other scenes and, as often, other dimensions.

I read about an incest victim whose father used to tie her up and force her to perform fellatio on him. As a symptomatic adult, she was admitted to a hospital and force-fed because of an eating disorder. The woman resisted the efforts of medical personnel to shove a large tube down her throat, so they strapped her to a bed and continued with the procedure. Certainly, here is an instance where past and present collided to form a shattering symbiosis.

The second theoretical issue involved the politics of gender in representation. Simply stated, can a man authentically represent the experience of a woman in film? And, if so, how does he go about doing it?

My ideas about representing "Otherness" are similar to how Walter Benjamin defines the task of a translator. The translator mustn't seek to recreate the source, but to locate its resonance.

[A] translation does not find itself in the center of the forest but on the outside facing the wooded ridge; it calls into it without entering, aiming at that single spot where the echo is able to give, in its own lan- guage, the reverberation of the work in the alien one. Benjamin concedes that "there remains in addition to what can be conveyed something that cannot be communicated" and that, ultimately, the truth is between the lines. A filmmaker must be willing to faithfully communicate things he or she doesn't fully understand. Only then can the true (and often startling) nature of the subject find its way to the screen.


DAVID MUNRO is a recent graduate of the cinema program at San Francisco State University. The short film he has just completed, first love second planet, is his thesis project and the culmination of his studies toward a master's degree in film production. Partially funded by an AFI/Western States Regional Arts Grant, the film premiered at the Seattle Film Festival in May of 1996 and has since won Best Experimental Film at the UFVA Student Film Festival. David's previous film, Bullethead, a stylized political allegory about an East German luge racer with a surgically-streamlined head, has screened nationally and internationally at film festivals, including Mill Valley, Breckenridge, Chicago (silver plaque winner), Cinequest, Berlin Interfilm, Sao Paulo, Viennale, Locarno, Melbourne, Short Circuit (Paris), and Sundance, and at the Los Angeles Film Forum. The film appeared on PBS' nationally-syndicated "Alive TV" series, and was shown on Rome television in the Spring of 1995. Prior to returning to school, David was a copywriter at Saatchi and Saatchi Advertising where he wrote and directed a number of award-winning television commercials for a variety of clients. He earned his bachelor's degree in political science at Brown University and was born and raised in Miami, Florida.

Grotto Films
2148 Market Street
San Francisco, CA, 94114

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