True Enough

Creator's Statement

When I first read Will Webb's memory, I was thrilled to realize that it resonated with a recurring question in my research: how the same image can get reframed and perceived differently depending on the context in which it is encountered. What the narrator first sees as a horrific creature gets transformed into a harmless puppet through the magic of collective perception. Fear is the affect the narrator was expecting to experience, based on their mother's warning; but the socially appropriate response to the film gets redefined during the viewing as the narrator's friends demonstrate hilarity, allowing the narrator to suddenly see through the cinematic illusion.

In a series of interviews I conducted to study how expected and disruptive emotions during the viewing impact how a film is remembered, I was struck by the importance, in many testimonies, of the viewing context (Galibert-Laîné 2020). As Annette Kuhn had already observed in her own 2002 research on film memories, spectators tend to remember where, when and with whom they watched a given film much more clearly than they recall who the main character was or the names of the actors. As if what surrounded the screen ultimately had more importance than what was projected onto it. I found that in Will's memory: to me the anchor of the text, its punctum (Barthes 1980: 49), was the laughter of the narrator's friends, emphasized by the author's decision to isolate and accentuate the verb with an exclamation mark (“Laughing!”). Something that was happening offscreen, yet had the power to redefine what was happening onscreen. 

This prompted me not to edit any clips from existing films in my videographic interpretation of this text, but rather explore, through original footage, a fictional offscreen space that I imagined might have made up the rest of the narrator's field of vision while watching the film. It might also have been inspired by some of my own experiences with frightening movies, when I would attach my gaze to any object close enough to the screen that I could still get a sense of what was happening through my peripheral vision without having to face it.

Thinking about how to convey the sudden reframing of the terrifying creature as a grotesque puppet, I had the idea to create a music score that would convey that shift in the atmosphere of the video. After exploring quite a large corpus of puppet-based films from the 80s and 90s, I had decided that the text might have been referring to Joe Dante's 1984 movie Gremlins – why not? I thought it would be both helpful for me, as the music composer, to take the film's score as a starting point, and interesting for viewers that certain musical elements might be recognizable, as music is one of the elements of the cinematic language that we do tend to remember better than others. I also liked the idea that the music would be able to convey parts of the story that I then wouldn't need to spell out in my narration, such as the reference to the Simpsons episode. 

While working on the music score, I started to imagine rewriting the original text as a sort of nursery rhyme that could be sung. This was meant to evoke a sense of childhood that I felt quite strongly in Will's memory, though I don't know exactly how old the narrator was. I had fun rewriting the text as a French poem (in alexandrins), then translating it back again into English with the help of a friend, the English and Musicology scholar Iulia Dima. For the English version we adopted accentual verse because of its commonness in children’s lullabies, though it required a distancing from the French version, which was already an interpretation rather than a translation of Webb's original text. For the subtitling I decided to appropriate elements from the aesthetics of karaoke video, with words changing colors once they are sung, as a way to inscribe the singing into the visualization of the text. The synchronization with the voice was difficult: having chosen two distinct modes of versification in both languages, the sentences tended to have different lengths. I now appreciate this never-closing gap between sound and image as rather humorous (whoever would like to try and sing the video in English might find themselves in some trouble!), but it can also be seen as a reminder of the video's plurivocal origin. Having had to put my videographic feet into someone else's memory shoes, it only makes sense to me that the result of the experiment should present a form of unresolved discrepancy. The written and sung words are related yet they don't entirely overlap – as does Will's memory with some of my own, or probably anybody's formative cinema experiences.


Works cited

Barthes, Roland. 1980. La Chambre claire. Note sur la photographie. Paris, Gallimard-Le Seuil, 49.

Galibert-Laîné, Chloé. 2020. ‘Émotions et souvenirs de film : entre l’intime et le collectif,’ Théorème (32), Presses Sorbonne Nouvelle, 63-74.

Kuhn, Annette. 2002. An Everyday Magic: Cinema and Cultural Memory. London, I.B. Tauris, 2002.



Chloé Galibert-Laîné is a French researcher and filmmaker. They are currently working as a Senior Researcher at the Hochschule Luzern in Switzerland and as Visiting Filmmaker at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, USA. They hold a practice-based PhD from the ENS de Paris (SACRe) and have taught at institutions that include the Royal Academy of Art in The Hague, the Ecole des Beaux-arts in Marseille and the California Institute of the Arts. Their work explores the intersections between cinema and online media, with a particular interest for questions related to modes of spectatorship, gestures of appropriation and mediated memory. Their video essays and desktop films have shown at festivals such as IFFRotterdam, FIDMarseille, Kurzfilmtage Oberhausen, True/False Festival, transmediale, and the Ars Electronica Festival.


Memory text

The nasty little creature’s legs bend out of its body, crispy and crackly. I grip hard, my fingernails pressing in on my palm. We are in the front room of a neighbour’s house, crowded around a dinky TV. The sun has started to go down and no-one has turned on the lights; shadows in the room are milky.

We are watching a film we should not be watching. My mum, whose voice I can hear drifting over from our garden, her laugh carried up over the fence and through the open back door faintly into the room, has banned me from this sort of movie, ever since I spent an evening floating in the doorway, half transfixed half horrified, all torn, half-watching an episode of The Simpsons, how embarrassing, “Treehouse of Horror.”

The legs bend out of the body and it starts to rise. The heroes look on in horror – just like me – and fight back. Its skittering and screaming, foley’d pained wail. I snatch looks at my brother, sister, neighbour, his friends; but they are smiling.


I look back to the screen and see it too. The creature, writhing, is a puppet; someone made this, then drove home and spent an evening with their family. This is funny. It’s funny because it isn’t true; it’s horrifying because it’s true enough.

The room has grown dark. We turn on the lights.


Author’s reflection on the video

I was conscious when writing my initial text that it was a recollection of childhood, and so I might feel more tender about the way it was interpreted than I would something from my adult life. I was happy to see that essayist Chloé Galibert-Laîné had responded to that childish memory within the text with a youthful joy.

Galibert-Laîné’s film is entirely constructed from original footage, which captures well the soft moments of childhood that the text refers back to. Never showing a central media text, the film reflects the central idea of not-watching; avoiding screens and looking at feet or shadows on a wall, it has the feel of looking away from something too scary to consider. This interpretation also foregrounds the filmmaking process, setting up the revelation of the narrator that films are created texts.

I had written the text with a sort of musicality in mind, a rhythm for the delivery; this carried through the translation into French, and Galibert-Laîné’s delivery builds on that staccato rhythm (those first lines, the tension of the little creature!). Galibert-Laîné goes a step further and develops this into a central element of the essay, and my favourite aspect of the video is in fact musical: the delightful Simpsons theme music quotation that forms a sort of punchline in the piece.



Will Webb is a writer-director based in London. His films have played at BAFTA-qualifying festivals including London Short Film Festival and PÖFF Shorts. He was awarded the BFI Future Film Award for Fiction in 2015, selected as a Hospital Club Emerging Creative in 2017, and a member of BAFTA Crew 2017- 2021. His videographic criticism includes online commissions for the British Film Institute, Little White Lies, and on-disc physical media releases for Arrow Video. He created two micro-essays for the Essay Library Anthologies, which received an honorary mention in the Sight & Sound best video essay poll for 2021. He has also programmed films for the Chronic Youth Festival (Barbican) and Sheffield Doc/Fest and devised workshops for the BFI.