Rachel Tillotson is a BAFTA Award-winning director who, at first glance, has an authentic British sensibility surrounding her work: proven comprehensively in her aesthetics and chosen themes relating to British culture. At any rate, a deeper look showcases a collection of shorts resonating with a social and experimental form of cinema, likened to that of Chris Marker. This is seen utmost in Tillotson’s short, As I Was Falling.
An immediate short that reaches a brief minute and ten seconds in duration, As I Was Falling ends promptly, but allows for long meditation far outlasting the seventh or eighth viewing. In so much as the title suggests, the narration surrounds that of someone falling; in this case, what appears to be a married man who stands cautiously upon a high-rise building. What follows is the man’s descent, attentively watched by a merger of video and photography.
Plausible reason would presume the inclusion of photography could be equated to ease of functionality. Masking a moving image does oppose its problems, but in recognising Tillotson as a conscious director, it should be considered very much a creative decision and a chosen tool that aids the viewer in deconstructing an ideology. To take a photograph is to encapsulate a memory. A flash of a second documenting time and stating, “this has been.” In this case, we are paralyzed within the frame of immediate death: an existential reminder that you will die!
A harrowing interpretation of disingenuous proportions when taking into account the images juxtaposed alongside the man’s plunge as he passes from window to window of the building. Vacuous life resides in the three rooms we enter via the windows. A man sleeps amongst empty bottles, a vacuum cleans a dirtied carpet, and a lady sits disengaged. All three are vacant from the outside world.
This is enforced further by the alteration of camera language. Motion is reintroduced and cinematic movement takes control. Changing from photography to moving image conjures a notion of progression and advancement. If this is to be true, why are we presented with that of life on the fringes of nihility, similar to the man falling?
The disconnection between the occupants and the falling man are screaming to be examined by the clear reflection of the body passing in household objects of a kettle, a table and a teapot. The flat dwellers are unaware of the man’s impending death, as we are of them. By only accessing each character from what little information we are given, this is where the film makes its statement.
A film fueled by segregating characters and recording formats begs the question; rather than regarding the fall of the man as a nihilistic showing of death, should it critique our descent of empathy to one another? Fortunately, we were able to put forward these questions to Rachel Tillotson to better understand her concepts and views of British cinema.We're interested to know why the decision was made to mix both still and video image?
I was paying homage to filmmaker Chris Marker. It’s everywhere within the film. I was really interested in the process of creating movement from the illusion of still image. Plus, the concept of As I Was falling could be made for a lot of money, but for a low budget film, still imagery works well.Do you consider As I Was Falling to be a showcasing of death or a rallying cry to live?
It’s not trying to communicate life or death, even though that is the subject matter. It’s more to evoke a sense of pain, a psychological pain within a metropolis. It is a social commentary for when I used to live in London. Everyone lived in blocks of flats and it struck me how little we knew of our neighbours. Unknowing how they were feeling, what their mental state was and if they felt isolated. It’s difficult to see on the outside and can sometimes be as small as a reflection in a teapot.As someone who has shown and won multiple film festivals, how would you say the style and narrative varies within British film?
There is a pocket of British short films which are interested in the British identity. There has been a shift in serious drama and I believe they run at a slower pace than countries outside of Britain. Personally, I think British short film should be pushed forward into an original space. I embrace experimental styles, of course, but more importantly I would like to see different content; something that explores different perspective.
Rachel Tillotson has designed a perspective to mirror us and our ability to dissociate from one another. In this ever increasing pace of a world in motion with throwaway content and isolation, maybe we should try and engage now, more than ever.