Exploring sensuality and intimacy in cinema

Indonesian filmmaker Edwin studied graphic design in Jakarta. His first short film was selected for the Quinzaine des Realisateurs at the Cannes Festival in 2005. His first feature Blind pig who wants to fly (2008) was selected for the Tiger Competition at the Rotterdam Film Festival and won the Fipresci Prize. His latest film, Postcards From The Zoo was nominated for a Golden Bear at Berlinale 2012.
He came to the Master Film to explore whether smell can be expressed in cinema, through audio and visual.

“I felt that I could smell a scent when watching a film and I wondered whether it was a subjective and unique experience or wether it could be replicated with all kinds of audiences. I tried to record the various supporting elements whenever I felt a smell, hoping to find a common denominator that might also apply to other people or conditions. If I succeeded in doing this, at the very least I could introduce a new way of viewing films.”
“One of the films I watched was 'Score', a soft porn film by Radley Metzger, thinking that a porn film would have an interesting impact on the ability to smell scents through images. Eventually, I became interested to read about the evolution of porn, especially soft porn and erotica. I began to see a cinematic angle to this genre. I realized that we are drawn to cinema because of movement, something which is the essence of a porn film, body and movement.”

A floating closeness
“At the same time, having just emigrated to Holland, I was going through a process of adaptation and learning about my new environment. Observing Dutch culture, I saw many parallels to Indonesian culture in general. One Dutch friend even said he felt there was more from Indonesia influencing Dutch culture, than the other way around. I found it intriguing that Indonesia and the Netherlands have a relationship of hundreds of years and that yet, in comparison, there is so little information available on the subject. However, there are things that can be felt and sensed by both the Dutch and Indonesian community that perhaps don't exist in knowledge or information, but in a feeling or sense of familiarity and intimacy. I became fascinated by this floating closeness, one that isn't discussed but only felt.”

“My growing interest in the Indonesian-Dutch relationship and my fascination with the genre of porn are the basis of my study at the Master. I go deeper into both subjects and establish a connection which for me exists. My perspective on the relevance between porn and the Indonesia-Netherlands relationship begins with the discussion about fantasy and colonialism.”
“In the world of porn, fantasy is the staple. Unlike the rest of modern culture, where race distinctions feel backward and derogatory, in porn the sub-genre of race is still an important element of appeal (read: fantasy) to customers. Asian, Latina, Ebony are some "race" categorizations that are offered on most porn websites and retail outlets. How does "race" become a type of fantasy, parallel to sexual preferences like oral, anal, threesome and so on? It leads me to the question whether colonialism could have been fueled by fantasy? There were certainly more recognizable motivations like the economy. But perhaps what perpetuated and cemented the relationship was a fantasy, a pull towards the exotic and oriental.”

Analogue intimacy
“I chose to explore sensuality and intimacy in cinema. There are two elements in my personal background that motivate this exploration. My previous films were made in a country where expressions of intimacy in art is stigmatized and often banned. Despite those conditions, I have always tried to include intimacy in my films, and the result has always been a muted one. Secondly, the digital revolution in cinema makes me feel distanced from the intimacy that I feel should always exist in cinema. Thus I felt the desire to experience filmmaking without any digital support by experimenting with analogue laboratory techniques.”
“I feel that the physical process of filmmaking itself is a sensual one: shooting starts with peeking into the viewfinder, image development involves touch, something as sensitive as the touch of light to emulsion, and the toxic chemicals that are dangerous to the human touch. Cinema, imagination and the memory of the audience affect one another, penetrate one another, and result in a sensual experience. This is what motivates me to experience the physical process. I am determined to maintain the physical experience in cinema. To make the experience, imagination, memory of cinema as the result of the full sensory experience of hearing, smelling, sight, taste and touch.”

Exotic pictures
Edwin's developed two projects at the Master. One is called 'Exotic Pictures' (working title) and was presented at the Asian Project Market in Busan and received an ARTE award for Best Project. “I will continue to develop the script into a feature film. I hope that my exploration of intimacy will be regarded well and invite filmmakers in my country to explore issues like intimacy which are stilI stigmatized and banned, while images of violence are never a problem.”
“My second project, a porn film called 'Hortus', is completed and will be synchronized with archival footage from the EYE Filmmuseum for the screening. All the footage was developed and processed manually at the film laboratory Filmwerkplaats WORM in Rotterdam as well as L’Etna laboratory in Paris. I am extremely pleased with the progress I made at the lab, as well as with the shooting of the porn film. I look forward to presenting my results in the exhibition. I’m also inspired to establish a film lab in my own country based on my experience at Filmwerkplaats WORM and L’Etna, drawing on the passion these people have to maintain physical / manual film processing in this digital world.”

December 2013


Graduation Show: 'HORTUS' by Edwin