Louyre, Andrew Kötting’s family home in the French Pyrenees, “is the sort of place where you find yourself believing in things that you might never accept in more ordinary surroundings.”
The editing of This Our Still Life carries a similar truth, powerfully evoking feelings and ideas that may have never arisen from a more ordinary film. This eccentric portrait of family life largely avoids plot and continuity, and has only the story of the seasons lending it loose structure, beginning in summer and ending in summer.
Kötting’s choice of audio clips, disembodied voices and music, accompanied with footage ranging from Super 8 clips dating back as far as 1989 to a cheap digital stills camera in 2004, results in 57 intense minutes of varied image and sound.
References to nature, the concept of time, art, isolation, religion, and politics are scattered across the film, but are ambiguous enough to not impose their ideologies on the viewing experience, and instead contribute to the destabilisation of the audience through the abstract ways in which they are proposed.
The film even successfully eschews the sentimental or exploitative representation of the handicapped too often present in other films with such subjects. Watching Eden, Kötting’s daughter with Joubert syndrome, sit on a dimly lit porch with two family friends, singing along to Elvis Presley’s Love Me Tender with a flower garland around her neck, it is clear that this film is highly personal, and far from the sterile nature of social issue documentaries.
It is noteworthy that the film’s footage spanning over 22 years was finally put to use following the influence Kötting found in another avant-garde film. “It wasn’t until the Christmas of 2006 when I was watching Stan Brakhage‘s Dog Star Man that I decided to start editing the material” he says.
It may therefore not be until 18th November 2011, the BFI cinema release date of This Our Still Life, that contemporary experimental film-makers get inspired to also return to footage that’s been gathering dust. The film is a shining example of what can be achieved when artistry takes the lead from blind convention and market expectations.