Film is a time machine. A lot of film makers forget this ability. Making Arena has reminded me of this in so many ways.
‘Arena’ is a dual narrative, flicking back and forth between 1943 and 2017 to visually link both stories as one. It’s amazing how audiences can quickly, automatically and unconsciously switch to follow dual narratives especially ones that are as visually different as ‘Arena’. We’ve built up this narrative ability over the century of film making as a visual language. Without it, Arena just wouldn’t work. So much of that visual language we all use every day, staring at our smartphones. It’s the same language understood by anyone in the UK as it is to a shepherd on the hills in Azerbaijan watching on his or her phone.
Location scouting, I was also drawn to the fact that a lot of our proposed camera set ups feature reflections in shop windows. When I was an art student, one of my visual fascinations were the same reflections. I would fill up sketch books of images double reflected in shop windows. Thirty years later, here I am doing the same thing. It’s that time machine again.
‘Arena’ is full of reflections carried through time, bouncing off one another like a laser in a tube until they become one focused beam of light. I think they call that ‘cinema’.