Michael Snow

(Toronto, 1928)


35mm color, sonido, 3 min (bucle) 2005


Writing about my films has sometimes discussed the 'narrative' aspect or 'reading' of some of my 'pictorial' nature, which is much more important. Reflecting on this, I realized that I have never wanted to make a purely narrative film, never had and therefore perhaps I should. Perhaps I should finally make a film that really tells a story. Thus 'SSHTOORRTY'.

It's a 'painting' about a painting. I was very concerned with the mobile color mixing that would eventually happen. Colors were carefully chosen as I tried to predict how they would mix and interact. I make 'pictures' and the experience of looking at them is more important than the 'elsewhereness' of a story, even in this, my most 'story-telling' film. In that respect, part of the perception or 'reading' of the film involves one's choices of what went before and what came after in the actual pre-filmic event. The use of Farsi and the over-laying of the English subtitles were ways of adding two other layers of complexity. The film was designed to be seen several times, not just once. In my 1974 four-and-a-half-hour film Rameau’s Nephew, I used many different languages. Ones hearing of an unfamiliar language tends the mind toward the ways in which one listens to music. Speech is then more purely sound than sense. Meaning doesn't cancel hearing. A modest political edge: adultery and drinking alcohol can be severely punished in Iran. Part of the original conception was that one could satisfyingly see / hear the episode-on-episode several times. Repeated viewing reduces the strength of the realism and makes it possible for one to see truly the artifact (or, the construct), the artificiality, the art. There are, literally, layers to it and I believe that each time one sees 'it' one sees it differently. One may concentrate for example, on the moving color-mixing, or what happen to the painting or the subtitles, or the way the speech and music are superimposed on each other. And as memory can be questioned, one may question ones memory as to whether each repeat is in fact the same. Were alterations made? The title is of course the word SHORT printed right on top of the word STORY.

Michael Snow


SSHTOORRTY es el único trabajo narrativo de Michael Snow. En él se cuenta una historia con trama, nudo y desenlace, de 3 minutos en la que el negativo de la película se superpone, pasando muchas cosas a la vez, en primer y segundo plano, rompiendo así con la narrativa tradicional de la imagen. El espectador al principio se pregunta: ¿qué va antes?, ¿qué va después?. Dicha superposición no es únicamente un efecto visual, sino que se trata de una manipulación física real del negativo. El propio título está construido a partir de la superposición de las palabras “short” (corta) y “story” (historia) en inglés.

Los personajes hablan en Iraní y están subtitulados en inglés y nos plantean una situación de adulterio, en la que uno de los protagonistas lanza un vaso de vino a otro. En irán el adulterio y el alcohol, temas argumentales de la pieza, están fuertemente penados.  Parte de la idea original era que el espectador viera y escuchara los episodios superpuestos en varias ocasiones, para comprender los significados, en una pieza aparentemente corta de duración que debido a su forma y estructura precisa de la repetición.