The Age of Longing

Creator's Statement

Oswald Iten's “The Age of Emptiness” edits together shots from The Age of Innocence (Martin Scorsese, 1993) set to the familiar soundtrack of Taxi Driver (Scorsese, 1976), creating new meaning in the contemporary context of social distancing. As we leave social distancing further behind us, I tried to create something new; this time, by setting numerous shots from I Am Love (Luca Guadagnino, 2009) to the musical theme that accompanies Madam Olenska (Michelle Pfeiffer) in The Age of Innocence. This is how I tried to bring to the surface the longing that inhabits Guadagnino’s film, combining images of spaces, food, nature, letters and more, with human touch.

What drew me to Iten's work was its attention to details, the respect it affords them and the emphasis it places on their narrative significance. It is interesting to think of the underlying, hidden stories within every film, stories that are perhaps unconnected to the primary narrative, stories that are concealed between close ups of food, flowers, hands, gestures. The realization that these shots take up such a large portion of the film's runtime highlights their importance, their impact on the viewers, and above all – their beauty and the emotions they evoke.

I chose to adapt the structure of Iten's work to the study of a film that for me triggered different – but not unrelated – associations in the context of the pandemic. If Scorsese's film, according to Iten, depicts a story of emptiness, Guadagnino's film adds to that a tragic but almost child-like longing for closeness. After many lockdowns, my own need to be closer to others was felt but almost unrealizable, as both internal and external distance took hold of my surroundings.

The result came after a lengthy editing process, which put me in a trance-like state. I tried to produce an experience of movement, which would convey something of the passion hidden in the small details, the desires concealed beneath the surface of ordinary objects and gestures. I was moved by the thought that it might be possible, by connecting the many fragments from the film, to tell a larger story, an almost-universal story.



Lia Dekel is a filmmaker and an undergraduate student at the Steve Tisch School of Film and Television, Tel Aviv University, studying in the school’s honors track. Since 2021 she has written and made video essays for the Israeli online film journal ‘Off Screen.’ Her films have participated in festivals around the world. In 2021 she represented Tel Aviv University as a judge at the EUFA festival. Since 2023 she is one of the organizers of a film club for young cinephiles at the Tel Aviv Cinematheque.

Lia Dekel’s “The Age of Longing” responds to “The Age of Emptiness” by successfully appropriating its audiovisual concept in order to reflect on a later stage in our collective experience of the pandemic. When I first saw Dekel’s video, I was amazed by how closely she was able to adopt the dramatic structure of my video and still tell her own story. The resulting video not only works beautifully in its own right, but as a response, it also made me see my own video with new eyes. The fact that Dekel manages to tell her story without text (in half the time, I have to add!) makes me question my own use of written words on screen.

Realizing that I Am Love (Guadagnino, 2009) devotes even more screen time to “shots devoid of human characters” than The Age of Innocence (Scorsese, 1993), I wonder whether the ratio of “empty” inserts to a film’s total duration is related to the average shot length or to contemporary editing practices in general. Of course, both “The Age of Emptiness” and “The Age of Longing” only work as reflections on social interaction (or the lack thereof) because they contain additional shots. While I tried to depersonalize the images of hands and silhouettes in “The Age of Emptiness,” Dekel personalizes even the architecture by confidently showing us the female protagonist at exactly the right moments. She keeps the focus on human touch by never showing any facial expressions, though.

While I used Herrmann’s Taxi Driver (Scorsese, 1976) score to elicit danger and fear from the images of The Age of Innocence, in a genius turn, Dekel uses Elmer Bernstein’s yearning score from the latter film to bring out the longing in I Am Love. Madame Olenska’s theme not only emphasizes the connection between the two video essays, it also affects my perception of the images in a very different way than John Adams’s non-emotionalizing compositions that Guadagnino used to score his film. During the close-up of the shrimps, for example, the music perfectly encapsulates the sensuousness and passion that I Am Love conveys through selective sound design and close-ups of Tilda Swinton’s face. Bernstein’s musical theme may provide a strong structure for the overall flow; what makes “The Age of Longing” a fulfilling experience for me, however, is the audiovisual music, the editing, created with a sensitive ear.