HEREUNDER Response by Dean Kavanagh
I watched all of your films that you sent me at night, since you describe yourself as a 'nocturnal', and you work at night. However, everything seems different in the light of day, a sense of renewal, beginning again, or that we have a chance to get away before the night comes back. Nonetheless, there is time to escape, but I like to think of this as time to prepare. I can see from your films (some I have seen in public screenings) that there is an impending sense of doom, at times beautiful or terrifying, and often both.
This film, like many of your films, seems to raise an anxiety in the viewer. I am never sure what to expect, and I always try to see ahead in a certain 'damning' sensation- to try and find a way out, to try and save myself. But I have never found a way out, and certainly have not found any way to deal with Hereunder. There is no escape in the films of Maximilian Le Cain.
The film opens in a very tactile way, a woman rubbing her head and the sound of breathing. The sound of the breathing becomes a comforting factor throughout Hereunder, and then it becomes the most terrifying part.
A particular moment I found very beautiful was the woman's stare (at the 2min mark), and the slow sweeping movement made by the camera. This stood out for me in a film dictated by montage. It reminded me of some of the faces of old women in 'church-going' scenes in works by post-impressionist painters. And this complete rendering of the 'forlorn' and a sense of distance (not only of space but time) reminded me of Tarkovsky, and the faces of the women in the dream sequences of Nostalghia.
But there was a difference. There was a jagged sense of intimacy, perhaps achieved through the format and the choice of expression and composition.
It felt like she was saying "what are you doing here?", and while the audience (the movement) pulls away, I felt like she really wanted us to stay, or wanted me to stay, or someone…whoever it was. Vicky gave the character a real sense of solidity, while in other moments appearing 'phantom-like'.
There is a huge building sensation, and then there was a moment of release. Momentary. The woman is standing in open air, arms wide apart, and for once there is a sense of 'real' distance. Not only did this not last, but it never really existed in the first place. She is surrounded by a massive wall of rusted metal and junk. It looks like it will crush her. Her worries are always with her.
Is there any escape from daily routine, from sounds and lights? Perhaps through sleep? No. The film uses what sounds like a person sleeping as an atmospheric bed for its duration. There is no way to fall asleep and escape this existence.
Often for me, absence = death. And this, like most of your films seem to disclose and expose spaces, light and occupation of the spaces. Spaces are filled. Spaces are absent too. The investigation of the lockers for example, some of them had rusted bolts, boxes and paint cans in them. Others didn't have anything. The light filled them and created shadows. They seemed more inviting than the occupied lockers. The lockers that had items in them seemed empty. The woman later opens them and re-investigates, once again, clanging them off of the concrete floor, or tampering with the boxes to make some natural noise. It would seem she wants the items talk of this space, to hear a possible answer by the reverberated sound from the space.
Then there is the sense of absence when the woman is not in the room at all. There is a rack of empty lockers and a hanging light bulb. Moments later, we see her in another room getting changed, or suffering from the cold.
Eventually the room feels empty whether the woman is there or not. Perhaps this 'death' comes while we are alive: in an open space. Below. Above. Whether in a sound or in a conversation, once there is a sense of absence, and no more investigation, things begin to fade. We are dead while we are living sometimes.
The film is highly intimate, thoroughly engaging and at moments disengaging and subjective to the point that even voids criticism. But I felt provoked by the film to give my view. Films like this get people talking because they are silenced for the duration of the work and even for days after.
I thought the film was very poetic, and Vicky's performance was sublime, even when it became eerie. Certainly these were moments 'captured', processed and explored to the full extent of the atmosphere. Hereunder leaves the viewer in a very strange space indeed.