This visual experiment is a result of the “videographic response” assignment. So, I began sailing the vast seas of Sight & Sound’s “Best Video Essays” polls. Among the great number of fascinating works, Jessica McGoff’s “Women’s Time-Image” somehow caught my eye. When I saw this title, it resonated with me and immediately sparked my interest. At the time, I was quite occupied with Letter from an Unknown Woman (Ophüls, 1948), which I had just watched for the first time not long before. The movie, based on Stefan Zweig’s novella of the same name, is constructed as a circular time capsule of a woman’s unrequited love, eternal and repetitive on her part, but already over from the moment we learn of it. This notion turned out to be very similar to the notion of women’s time-image McGoff establishes in her video.
With this in mind, I shifted my attention to the editing of the video. McGoff delivers her argument succinctly, through a segmented assembly of images and text over a blank background. The structure and pacing gave me the impression as though the video was performing a sort of surgical act – one that is possible only through delicate handwork. This sensitive approach, in both content and style, clashed completely with the impression conveyed by the first part of the essay – an intro to the argument composed of a compilation of images from The Lady from Shanghai (Welles, 1974). The fragmented and disfigured images are accompanied by a grating melody that creates a rather disturbing impression. This clash was what made these two points of reference the ones that shaped my approach to the assignment. I wanted to slowly return from the delicate characterization of interiority to a sort of roughness, to perform not the gesture of a surgeon but that of a butcher in my own editing and rhythm. By doing so, I aim for my video to serve as an experiment in raw repetition through editing and structure, highlighting the distressing, prison-like aspect that eternity, as described within women’s time-image, can hold on interiority.
One of the most fascinating things about Chantal Ackerman’s influential Jeanne Dielman, 23, quai du commerce, 1080 Bruxelles (1975) is her conscious engagement with the viewing experience. It seems that Jeanne Dielman forces us to sit, perceive, internalize, experience, get bored and try to understand, through its repetitive actions, what cinematic time is. The heroine performs her actions but “doesn't get anywhere,” simply living her life. It seems that if you want to connect with Jeanne Dielman, you must observe, think, be alert to the way these actions reveal patriarchal oppression. Jessica McGoff’s fascinating video, “Women’s Time-Image,” seeks to expand on the concept of time, through the temporal aspects of repetition and eternity identified by Julia Kristeva. The perspective that McGoff offers in her work seeks to think about the routine practice of domestic labor in Jeanne Dielman as a Deleuzien time-image, with the aim of seeing this repetition as an aesthetic practice that attempts to capture female interiority.
I found a great deal of relevance in Akerman's first feature film, Je Tu Il Elle (1974), in relation to the representation of female time in cinema. The film plays with this question and raises the discussion of limiting autonomy and neglecting the woman's interiority through the motor-sensory consent issue. I felt that the claustrophobic and suffocating room surrounding the heroine (played by Akerman), makes room for cinematic time to lead the viewing experience. It is not clear whether we are watching the present or the past, and whether the actions of the heroine advance her to her goal; this fluidity of time, enabling the viewer to surrender to a meditative experience, breaks the boundaries of the confining room. I treated the videographic format as a laboratory that enables, through aesthetic manipulations, to play with the liminality that rages inside this locked room. I felt that the interesting connection between the images from Ackerman's film and the soundtrack from Umberto D. (De Sica, 1952) created a somewhat depressing feeling of uncertainty, a lack of vitality. This powerful feeling served as raw material for me in the videographic laboratory, to see this liminality as a kind of dance, a strange choreography, attempting to explore feminine cinematic time.
Alma Rechter is a recently-graduated undergraduate student at Tel Aviv University, where she majored as an honors student in both the Steve Tisch School of Film and Television and the Department of Classical Studies. She is the winner of two research scholarships in the field of Latin language and literature.
Maya Gadash is a filmmaker and Master’s student at the Steve Tisch School of Film and Television, Tel Aviv University, studying in the school’s honors track. In 2023 she curated a film series for the ‘Left Bank Cine Club,’ Tel Aviv.