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The Seed&Spark Blog


September 24, 2013

• Ben Umstead

Shared Spaces- curated by Ben Umstead

I am about to share with you three really fantastic films that you’ve probably never heard of, and unless you happen to live down the street from me in Los Angeles (a sprawl if there ever was one), we’re hundreds or thousands of miles apart. But here we are sharing this space on the web within and between these words and, soon enough, films. We’re connecting through a shared interest in cinema, but beyond that the immediacy of the distance between us is, while not surprising, still rather striking. That is because I can create an intimacy here in this shared space, or the illusion of intimacy, by trying to be personable. In this space I am sharing with you something of myself, of these films and their filmmakers... I am trying to communicate, start a conversation, get a rhythm going and I don’t know if, and how, you’re going to reply.  But I hope you’re still listening. 

Whether on or offline, sharing a space and being together can be an often beguiling, challenging, and sometimes very rewarding thing.  The idea of shared space may at first almost seem too general as a Conversation topic. One could argue that it is the driving force behind most stories, because that is indeed life itself at its most basic functional level.  But that’s just it, celebrating the basics, considering them in all their complexities and variations... that is what these films do so well.


Still from The Sound of Small Things

Consider newlyweds Cara and Sam in Peter McLarnan’s The Sound of Small Things, the first film in our Conversation. Cara is deaf and Sam is a mild-mannered drummer. Even sleeping in the same bed, the immediacy of distance between the couple is, indeed, striking. In Frank Rinaldi’s Sundowning, Susan plays caretaker to Shannon, a young woman suffering from early onset dementia. The intimacy they share in their small apartment is rarely pleasant, the routine Susan leads is rigid, diligent, pitch perfect, and something is very, very wrong about all this. More pleasantly, though with no less drama, Adrian Sitaru’s Domestic presents us with a series of stories from an apartment complex in modern Romania. Families bicker and fight, share metaphysical conversations over Christmas dinner, deal with loneliness, the deaths of pets and children, and whether or not one can butcher a chicken in the bath. 


Still from Sundowning

These are our emotional constructs within physical spaces. Consider the architecture of cinema, the framing and the long take. All three films let their worlds breathe: Cara and Sam in their quaint little house, Susan and Shannon in their small urban abode, and the apartment block residents amidst their courtyard and maze of hallways. We come to understand these physical spaces, of how it informs the inhabitants; of how it isolates them or compels them onward. When Sam is at work, Cara would rather crawl into a ball and read at home. Shannon isn’t allowed to step out of the apartment at all. The building president Mr. Lazar must deal with the pesky presence of one mangy mutt whose been hanging out in their hallways and stairwells instead of sitting safe and sound inside its owner's apartment. 


Still from Domestic

So here are our shared themes, images and parallels; our talking points. But the contrasts and differences between each film are, indeed, striking in their own way. The Sound of Small Things is quiet and reserved until it is not, slowly turning itself towards a dissonance that resembles heartbreak, and then perhaps hope. Sundowning is an endurance test, a calculated experiment that reveals a world much stranger and far more fantastic than anything we could have imagined from its opening. Domestic is sometimes very funny and sometimes very sad, but by and large it’s both funny and sad at the exact same time.

And so here these three films sit, sharing yet another space at Seed&Spark.

Now let me wrap it up here and allow you to get into that headspace of movie watching. 

But before I’m off let me mention that this is an online curation that will grow in content, and thus scope. Consider this then Shared Spaces 1.0. Expect version 2.0 sometime early in the new year with another slate of films that will...well...add more to the conversation. 


Ben Umstead

Ben is the East Coast Editor at Twitchfilm.com and a contributor to LitReactor.com. He is currently based in Los Angeles.



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