Source: Elie During, « Turning movements : Fragments on Mark Lewis », in Mark Lewis : Im/possible films, F. Bovier & H. Taieb (dir.), Genève, Métis Presses, 2016.
The most successful film will still be found lacking alongside the beauty of the painting’s “static explosion” (explosante fixe). It will lack the immediacy of a form that is lastingly installed in the present, a form that is able to organise its secret movements simultaneously from a distance, within the stillness of the “now”. This is true at least as long as the film surrenders – and the viewer with it – to the flow of fleeting images, each destined to sink in turn into the past as soon as it has appeared. In this regard, slow motion, in its attempt to freeze the image, can only be a kludge. It can only ever highlight our difficulty in truly tearing ourselves away from the flow to reach vertical time once and for all. The paradoxical remedy would seem to lie at the other extreme, in the “real-time” of long takes that let time build up on itself by stretching the image to the border of implosion, in the manner of Tarkovsky. Mark Lewis places himself between these two contradictory options: that of a sculpted or artificially reconstructed time, which would emulate simultaneity by joining together a multitude of time flows or lines of action, and that of a natural or organic time which would find its internal consistency at the cost of an ascetic renunciation to any cuts or editing effects. In reality, the artist, faced with these two options, chooses to favour neither. He adopts them both, or rather superimposes their logics. Unable to display the hidden side of the tree without moving the camera, he chooses to reveal the back of the image through a transverse movement. This abstract, almost aberrant manoeuvre, most often takes the form of a sweeping movement or a literal flyover: a sideways tracking shot, an upwards pan, or any combination of the two. Its ultimate aim is always the same: having the image flake off after a period of time, i.e., having something in the shot unfold and begin to rotate, so as to turn its back to us. Not, of course, its physical back – the hidden side of the screen – nor merely what is off-screen, its dark side or Other. The back of the image is at once a simpler and more abstract matter. Think of Ozu’s aberrant shot/reverse shots, the “reverse cuts” that seem to flip over the shot. ). The 180-degree organization of space (vectorised by the directions attached to lines of sight) is replaced by an open 360-degree space. The force of Lewis’s work is that it achieves an effect of the same kind within the continuity of a sequence shot or a tracking shot, without having to resort to the cut. Whereas Ozu manages “to produce the filmic image as picture plane” (Noël Burch), Lewis cuts and unfolds the image as volume. In his case, exhibiting the back of the image amounts to turning the image itself into a volume. The trick is all the more impressive when it is performed on the scale of the entire film. Thus, on the horizon of the movement-image lies the volume-image, a multifaceted image revealed by the editing operations, but which the camera’s movement already cuts and recuts in a thousand ways, according to an internal foliation of the shot. Here lies the true operating ground of the tracking shot at the heart of so many of Mark Lewis’s films: not the space that is filmed (the diegetic or cinematic space), nor the depth of the visible suggested by the depth of field, but the volume of the image qua image.