Saturday, December 31, 2016

Solace in Darkness: Scott Barley's Sleep Has Her House

Sleep Has Her House (2016) - Barley
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There are images that can't be described even with all the adjectives in the world. Regarding film as a sensory medium first and foremost, experiencing Scott Barley's short films has awakened in me the deeper appreciation for the medium like no other. Now the prolific young artist comes up with his feature length work, Sleep Has Her House. And I was privileged enough to experience it before it premieres on Tao Films, an independent film streaming website on January 2017. In experiencing SHHH, awe becomes loneliness becomes concern becomes fear becomes dream. It was the most magical and visceral film experiences I've had in a longest time.

I'm a big fan of Jean-Luc Godard's use of nature shots in his films. His use of nature - water, sky, sun, trees, reiterates that there exists a greater power. And it balances out what we are presented with, in characters and their earthly musings in scattered non-plots. It puts human existence into perspective. In Barley's work, nature, often shown at night, reflects the inner-scape of the artist. However grand and beautiful his images are, there is a familiarity and coziness to them. In Barley's world, an inner-scape and an outer-scape are one in the same. It's his ability to internalize his surroundings that is truly remarkable. Darkness can be a scary and frightening place. Embarking on SHHH might conjure up the image of a Saturn eating his own offspring at first. But once you take a leap and plunge into his shadowy, slowly moving images, the beautiful, mysterious yet familiar darkness envelops you and sucks you in. There is an ebbs and flows to SHHH, like a piece of fine music, like a taste of complex whiskey. Just like a typical narrative, there is beginning, middle and end. There is even a literal thundering climax too.

"Night is for everyone, therefore more democratic," says one of the characters in JLG's Hellas pour moi. Indeed. Darkness hides our imperfections, our sins, our true self, therefore everyone is equal. But in Barley's hands, darkness is our most comfortable, safe place to be- where you can be most honest and true to yourself. Alone, together. We watch his work in the dark, alone. Yet sharing the experience of being alone, we find solace in darkness, together. Alone, together. Loneliness I feel watching in Barley's work extends to the thought of what it must be like - Barley himself as a filmmaker, alone in the woods at night. Alone, together.

I've said too much already. SHHH needs to be experienced firsthand. Hope you will have a chance to experience the dark melancholia of Barley's world too, in front of a slightly glowing computer, between a headset in darkness - your head space, your inner-sanctum, your coven - so we can cobble up our fraternity of having experienced being alone, together. And it's a beautiful thing.

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