Interview with Vincent Le Port, director of La Marche de Paris à Brest [Walking from Paris to Brest]
Wednesday 2 February 2022, by ,
In 1927, filmmaker Oskar Fischinger traveled for three weeks along the side roads between Munich and Berlin, filming frame by frame the people he met along the way and the places he passed through. In 2020, the director did a remake of this film during a month-long walk between Paris and Brest.
What led you to give this film an “old-fashioned” effect, bringing it closer to your inspiration Walking from Munich to Berlin by Oskar Fischinger, with this series of short shots interspersed with white cuts?
Before filming, I ran lots of tests in both analog and digital, in color and in black and white, and I finally opted for the Super 8 in black and white because for me it was the best way to communicate this mixture of ephemerality and epiphany. The Super 8 also allowed me to make this film feel timeless, as if we were in the present and in a memory at the same time, and as it’s a film about time and memory while also being a tribute, it seemed appropriate. And then I wanted to shoot frame by frame in order to have a less passive relationship to what I was filming, in order to be able to make very short shots, in the range of three or four frames, but also to adapt the shooting rate to what I was filming or how I was feeling. The camera I found allowed me to do this, and it was a great pleasure to decide for myself the scrolling speed of the film. It undoubtedly came back to the idea of choosing my own path, going forward at my own pace, instead of following the beaten path. The film partly consists of in-camera editing, including the white cuts which were done by exposing the film to the open air after every shot. The editing initially consisted of removing whole blocks: I left with 5 reels (about 12 minutes) and I only kept half of what I’d shot. Then I focused on the overall rhythm of the film, made of accelerations and short moments of respite, in what turned out to be quite a musical approach. The idea was to maintain a balance between frustration (of not being able to see everything or see enough) and a form of letting go.
Why did you choose the route between Paris and Brest instead of another? Do you have a story or a particular encounter to share with us?
As I’m originally from Brittany, I’ve made the trip often, in train or by car, and I wanted to rediscover it by the backroads. Take the time to cross the plains and hills that we see from the train window, discover the villages whose names we only know from the signage on the sides of roads. So that the countryside is no longer an image that scrolls by behind a window, but to experience both physically and temporally what it is like to cross it. I also liked the idea that this route, Paris-Brest, is something that we can easily visualize on a map. We can easily imagine the distance and the time that it represents, and the fact that once we’ve arrived at the destination, it is no longer possible to continue on foot!
How did you come up with the soundtrack?
Once I had decided that unlike Oskar Finschinger’s film, mine would not be a silent film, I quickly understood for a number of reasons that music was the only option to make it possible to see the images despite the frenetic aspect of the editing. Also, I wanted to give the feeling of a continuous flow rather than a journey made up of 30 distinct stages (hence also the choice of fixed shots). I looked for music that was somewhere between trance and elegy, a music that could also be seen as timeless, and I ended up choosing the track from Mind Over Mirrors that we hear in the film.
To what extent are you interested in the rural world, and do you plan on making any other films on that theme?
I don’t know if it’s really a theme, but from the moment when we decide to move away from the TGV line or the highway and walk on foot, we are necessarily filming the rural world. We mustn’t forget that the majority of France is rural – not in terms of population but in area. When we walk, we realize this. In any case, there are towns in the film, traces of modernity, roads, tractors, power lines, cell phone towers, wind turbines, etc., but perhaps what we remember is what seems immutable to us or at least a little less fleeting than the rest, that which connects us to the past. And at the end of the day, what was there a century ago and will be there again a century from now is in what you call the “rural world”, the trees, the clouds, the leaves, the animals, the people…
Is there a particular short film that has made a strong impression on you?
First of all, Walking from Munich to Berlin by Oskar Fischinger, obviously! There were lots of others. To keep it short, I’ll mention two recent films: Dans l’œil du chien by Laure Portier (relentless, shocking) and Le Gang des DS by Antoine Garrec (crazy, hilarious).
What’s your definition of a good film?