FREE STREAMING on FILMEXPLORER - 13-19 - February 2020
Veslemøy’s Song | Sofia Bohdanowicz | CAN 2018 | 9’ | Locarno Film Festival 2018, Locarno Shorts Weeks 2020
A cipher for Sofia Bohdanowicz herself, Audrey (Deragh Campbell) searched the New York Public Library for a rare recording of a song by Kathleen Parlow, a music instructor who taught Bohdanowicz’s grandfather the violin. Campbell’s Audrey also appears in Bohdanowicz’s first feature Never Eat Alone (2016) and her latest feature MS Slavic 7. The Toronto-based filmmaker retraces the experiences of her grandmother, Joan Benac, through fictionalised frameworks and via certain sounds and images that illuminate the relative precarity of the analogue age.
In the film a young girl flies to New York to listen to a record from 1909. That record is Veslemøy’s Song, the encore to a hundred page concerto piece dedicated to the once famed but now forgotten music teacher of Bohdanowicz’s grandfather. Being a very rare wax cylinder, Audrey can neither see nor touch the record. She can only communicate with the engineer through a computer interface. Withholding the end of the record from her, the technician’s messages appear sterile and lifeless. Audrey cries, eats an egg salad sandwich and the film ends.
This vaguely dystopian ending to the form makes the form-within-the-form structure especially pertinent. The intimacy (and lack thereof) in the encounter between Audrey and technician – between Audrey and her disappointing egg salad sandwich – contrasts with the deep personal significance the record has for her family history. Watching this hand-processed 16mm film digitised into a mp4 file as a criticism on an online viewing library before it goes on to show at an on demand festival platform calls forth questions of reproduction and authenticity. In the reproduction and dissemination, the ease of accessibility means the plane journey Audrey makes is no longer necessary. It is as readily available worldwide as the disappointing egg salad sandwich she eats.
It is in the search for the original that beauty arises however. The soundtrack – the gentle plucking of violin strings, the clicking of a metronome – offers gentle suggestions of something not instantly available online. The degraded 16mm film again points to something that we can no longer see, a faded beauty, a legacy, Parlow herself perhaps.