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The Protagonist
The Antagonist

 

 
Lisboa (September 2015 / ongoing)
visual concept for a short film

'Lisboa' is a concept, in sketchbook form, for an experimental short film of about 12 minutes. It is part of a larger series of projects exploring the concept of time, and images thereof as physical objects with fetish-like qualities. The concept was developed by the Rupert Jaeger during a one month residency in Lisbon, Portugal, in September 2015, during which the artist also presented a series of image objects related to 'Lisboa'.

Technically, the series relies on an animation technique, which creates the illusion of seamlessly jumping from place to place, by way of moving in and out of photographs placed within specific urban locations. Rupert Jaeger first used this technique in September 2010 in New York, from where several 'image trails of moments in time' have evolved , across a number of other cities, including Barcelona, London, Berlin, Las Vegas, Florence and Lisbon.

The key images of any such trail of moments become physical manifestations of the experience of time itself, as if 'the image of an image of an image....becomes a physical object made up of frozen moments in time, just like the rings of a tree present time in material form.'

The narrative element of the series originally evolved out of an attempt by the artist to physically connect two very specific moments in time, in an experiment called '10 Years in September'. A public performance in Barcelona, Spain on the 22 of September 2011, for the first time featured 'The Protagonist', who would later start to appear in other of Rupert's videos and experimental narratives.

With 'Lisboa', a full narrative around this character is being developed, by bringing in 'The Antagonist', as well as a small group of other characters, who engage in mysterious creative activities. The narrative, and several key scenes in the film, deliberately reference three classic Hollywood films: Vertigo (1958), by Alfred Hitchcock; The Conversation (1974), by Francis Ford Coppola; and Twelve Monkeys (1995), by Terry Gilliam.

 
The Story

'Lisboa' centres around 'The Protagonist', who wears a white decontamination outfit, including surgical gloves and a gasmask. We follow him, as he explores a strange city devoid of humans made up of derelict houses, which have their windows and doors bricked up. On some walls of the city, there are images of other places, although it is not clear, if the Protagonist finds them or if he is placing them there.

As the journey evolves, we realise that he is followed by 'The Antagonist', a character in a black suit, shoes, gloves and balaclava, carrying a black briefcase. The scenes, characters and settings evoke associations of 'Scottie' Ferguson following Madeleine Elster through San Francisco in Hitchcock's Vertigo. The journey of the two characters through the city is intercut with animations connecting, via the images on the wall, to other places and moments in time.

About one third into the film, the Protagonist finds himself in 'Rossio Square', in the centre of Lisbon. Wide, static shots of the Protagonist, in the middle of the empty square, are intercut with handheld, telephoto shots of him amongst crowds of people. On the side of the square, the Antagonist is sitting on a bench, looking into his open briefcase and towards the Protagonist.

We then see a series of shots of the crowd, with recurring focus on the faces of a particular group of people within the crowd. Amongst them, is a man in his mid-thirties with an unusual - upwards facing - haircut. The three sets of shots are intercut and accompanied by a collage of voices and other surrounding sounds, yet they are distorted, as if played by an old audio transmitter. The whole scene, in particular the sound, is reminiscent of a central scene of Coppola's The Conversation taking place in San Francisco's Union Square.

The scene is followed by a collage of animations and short scenes of previous encounters of the two main characters. Eventually, we end up back in the city and see the Antagonist walking up a long, narrow and curved path of steps. This is juxtaposed with the Protagonist walking up a hill as well. At the top, he reaches a house, which is partly in ruins. As he starts peeping through a window, we cut to the Antagonist who is now in front of a wall with a bricked up window right in front of him. A long shot reveals that both characters are in fact at opposite ends of the same house.

Cut to: interior scene, the people from the earlier group on the square are dispersed around a room. Some of them are engaged in seemingly absurd activities. In the far corner, a woman with dark hair and a white dress is standing in front of a wind machine, which makes the dress move gently. On the right side of the room, a man is repeatedly moving backwards and forwards taking countless photos of an image stuck to the wall. On the opposite side, a woman is dressing a small, Voodoo type figure. Other people from the group are gathered around a table, watching an old movie on a TV in front of them. Amongst them is the man from earlier with the unusual haircut. While smoking a cigarette and casually watching the movie on the TV, he is cleaning a 16mil Bolex film camera.

At the centre of the room, also facing the TV, is a man, who has been tied to a chair and had his mouth gagged. He has blond, curly hair, and is wearing dark suit trousers and a white shirt. His black tie seems to have been cut off partly.

Cut to: The Protagonist standing in front of a window, which is filled with concrete. In its centre, an image has been attached, showing the never ending loop of images on other walls.
A close up shows the Protagonist's finger touching and moving over the image. We hear a woman's voice:

Here I was born, and here I died


As we hear the voice, and other sounds of an old movie, we cut to a close up of the tied up man. He is very agitated and attempts to speak, despite having gaffa tape over his mouth. His eyes are fixated on the TV screen, which is showing a scene of James Cole, the main character of Gilliam's Twelve Monkey's, in a cinema playing Hitchcock's Vertigo. Cole whispers to the person next to him:

I think I've seen this movie before

Cut to: Exterior, close up of the image on the wall from earlier, then a wide shot revealing the whole scene: An alleyway with a red suspension bridge in the background. The protagonist is nowhere to be seen, in the foreground, the Antagonist - his briefcase standing next to him - is looking to where the Protagonist was before. Fade to black, end titles: LISBOA

related:
Lisboa (image objects)
Imparando da Firenze
The Nostalgia Machine
Surreal Business Cycle
info@rupertjaeger.com