Original impulses

Technologies in music conducting and documentary filmmaking.

Kai Bumann, a German conductor working in Poland, when describing his method stresses the importance of understanding the original impulse for a given music composition. Before conducting a particular piece he wants to know how its composer saw the word. For Bumann music is closely connected with philosophy and theology. Finding the impulse that preceded a given score becomes the basis for the conductor's work. For example, sometimes during these searches he arrives at “deep layers of sorrow.”

Seeking the original impulse is a noble and elegant technology of any interpretive craft. Can the same be applied to a documentary filmmaking? Not always, seems to me.

I’ve made a few film portraits that indeed were based on what at that time I perceived were the initial impulses forming the lives of their heros. Among others, “Philosopher’s Paradise” was based on such approach, so was “Red with Black”. The latter was obvious and easy since Henryk Musiałowicz speaks straight about his artistic turmoils. “Philosopher’s Paradise” (although favorably received by critics and viewers and accepted by its hero)
left me concerned because my approach forced a spiritual diagnosis of the inner core of a philosopher, who to many (including himself) is a hard core materialist. Was I really allowed to force my POV on an image of another person? To this day I remain hesitant about my directorial choice in this film.

The above reflections were perhaps one of the few reasons why my latest project - “Lawnswood Gardens” - purposely stays away from any kind of (be it metaphysical or historical) investigating of its hero, instead it focuses on an attempt to render emotions connected with my meeting with Zygmunt Bauman. Granted that the word “my” is dangerous in this above context. Yet, there seems to be a qualitative difference between uncovering somebody’s initial impulses and reporting one’s own reaction to this person.

Does it mean that a conductor could be more free exploring his “heros” (composers) than a filmmaker exploring his screen subjects? Perhaps we are approaching here a wall of a documentary filmmaking. The wall of humbleness toward one's own limited understanding of others and of respect toward their complexities and vastness. Another wall would be potential harm that a film could inflict upon its heros -one of the reasons Kieślowski abandoned the documentary form.

It’s possible that I am just splitting hair here. It’s possible that a certain arrogance (of vision) is necessary to make documentaries. Perhaps this never easy maneuvering between one’s own perception and understunding of its potential dangers is the hardest element in a documentary film directing.

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