With a Breath. (Viveka Frost, 2019) – Review

The full film can be viewed, free of charge, here – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y6Omi2CGFJM&feature=youtu.be

I know I’m making a nasty habit out of starting these pieces with something completely unrelated to the film I’m writing about, but just let me explain the context here a little. 

I distinctly remember when Noctiflora, the first film Johnny Clyde released, surfaced. It was on Letterboxd, an online community I’d say I was still warming into at the time, and I had only recently started making little short films of my own. I was trying to invest myself into the community more and more, and I also loved seeing what different directors did with their own ideas with the lack of budgets we all had, so I saw Noctiflora one morning and I remember it hit me like a train – it completely floored me. I was just stunned by the fact that this was a film someone made with essentially no budget, stunned by the confidence that seemed to blast through within the film and stunned by the power of the direction and especially the editing. I’d say Noctiflora may still be my favourite film Johnny Clyde has made, however, I love them all. 

Not too long after I stumbled across Noctiflora and had spoken to Johnny and some of his filmmaking friends a couple of times, I remember the release of The Forgotten Colours of Dreams. I believe I was on holiday when it released, or was preparing to leave on one, and so it took me forever to get around to the film – I recall asking Johnny if it was still available and I believe I saw it on the final day of availability before he took it offline for a little while to give it a chance in film festivals around the world. Anyway, I loved that film too. I remember seeing all of the reviews at first, and they were just glowing. It was moving, even to me who wasn’t involved with the making of the film in the slightest, I was just beaming with pride for Johnny every time I saw one, and there were MANY. I’d rarely seen reactions to a film like it, never mind for an ‘amateur’ production, as it is called.

It was clear that The Forgotten Colours of Dreams had meant just as much to everybody else who saw it as it did to me, which was wonderful to see. I still feel a little guilty for not having seen it when it first came out in the hopes of maybe getting more people to see it themselves by spreading the word.

Anyway, things went quiet after that. I, myself, haven’t made a film since early 2018 (Forgotten Colours released in mid 2018, so I had already stopped for a little while by then). Johnny came back with Fragments towards the end of 2018, a little collection of clips from behind the scenes and from Forgotten Colours compiled together into a little reminiscence. I quite like this, too, for its beauty and simplicity. The same goes for Floralis, a short film Clyde released this year, a beautiful fantasy film that is really worth the watch. 

I wasn’t sure what to expect next, when all of a sudden this released. My ears perked up, but of course, with me being me, I stalled on this just as I had with Forgotten Colours. having finally gotten around to it now, I must admit I made the very same mistake and spent much longer than I should have sleeping on a wonderful work, this time in the form of a documentary about the making of The Forgotten Colours of Dreams and, furthermore, a touching reflection on the coming together of a group of brilliant creative people in their fight to make a film, a truly great film. 

I don’t think I have ever seen a documentary about film that has the same feeling that this one does. It feels as if something is brewing quietly the entire time in the background, this gentle emotion as well as this general buzzing, this overwhelming vibrance shared between these wonderful people. It feels like what they are doing is revolutionary, setting out with no money to make something as ambitious as Forgotten Dreams is, and there is also something in the way this documentary is shot, and the pressure shown on the backs of these artists and the conversations they have that gives the idea that this just feels like something so underground, so well hidden. This feeling of the cast and crew here being strangely swept aside is prevalent from start to finish, and whilst some may find it disheartening, I found it really quite inspiring that this crew with so little were able to accomplish so much. They’re all such talented people, evidently. It’s perhaps the only film that brought to mind Jonathan Caouette’s masterpiece documentary Tarnation, made on a tiny budget and edited on the very first Mac. This has a similar kind of ambition and observation of ambition, particularly in the moments when there is self doubt and pain. 

What was really wonderful was the interviews with each of the cast members. They all showed such an understanding for their characters and themselves and Johnny’s vision in such a wholesome way, clearly willing to give so much of themselves to his vision. There is such a wholesome feeling to the film as a whole, despite the fact that there are struggles aplenty throughout, it reminded me a great deal of my own time making films. I feel like anyone who has made a film will love this, and anyone who hasn’t yet made a film but wants to will find great inspiration here. Hell, even casual documentary fans will likely adore this for its observational style. It mixes all of the best traits of the various types of documentaries – the interviews are terrific, the observational work is beautiful and endearing, the pacing is seriously wonderful. The editing, especially the transitional stuff (glides like butter, might I add!) is beautiful, and really goes far beyond what is needed for the documentary in the best of ways, adding to it a certain level of experimentation and fiction that made it doubly interesting. The use of layering shots and consistent use of superimposition is just gorgeous, and also adds emphasis to this underground feeling I described earlier. The entire documentary is beautifully shot and edited, really. I can’t stress the technical skill enough. 

However, the technical skill here also isn’t what made me enjoy it so much. It is that connection forged with those involved and how beautifully it is all portrayed. In my notes, I literally just wrote the word ‘beautiful’ on its own multiple times. I think that a lot of it comes from how Frost is comfortable in rarely interrupting the interviewees, just letting them take their time in answering and more importantly allowing them to say almost anything. The scenes where Clyde expresses his self doubt and his discomfort are so emotional because of that lack of interruption, and it takes a lot of self discipline to allow those moments to play out without interjecting the “you’ll be okay!”s, I’m sure. It’s also effective in the way that it doesn’t stick to only presenting the highs or the lows that come from directing – the documentary is focused on honesty above all else, and that will always give it bonus points for me. It really is just a stunning work.

So, it’s a little hard to outright recommend this seeing as it is, at its core, a behind the scenes documentary (despite the fact that it really does become more than that in what it managed to do for me emotionally and in terms of its scale)… so, I recommend watching the wonderful Forgotten Colours of Dreams first *if you can*, and if not, go ahead and view this by itself as it doesn’t really spoil too much of the story of Forgotten Colours. Any way you watch this is bound to be inspiring and wonderful, so just make sure that you actually get around to it sooner rather than later, unlike me!

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