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Thursday, December 06, 2012

Safe places

In Canberra there is a room that is safe.  It's a small room, with walls hospital white, and only three chairs, always empty. But despite its emptiness, or maybe because of it, it's a room that is filled with music, and film, and big ideas. It's safe. Separate from everything. And at lunchtime I sometimes go there, alone, so that I can be separate too.

The room I'm talking about is at the National Portrait Gallery. The film, which runs for about fifteen minutes, is called 'Portrait of Cate Blanchett' and is by video portrait artist, David Rosetzky.  On one level, the film explores what it is to be an actress, but it's also about what it is to be layered, to have pointy edges to our personalities, and the idea of adaptation and manipulation of identity.

The opening of the film is mesmerising. The camera opens, locked tight on a pair of hands. One hand is inanimate, lifeless. As the camera slowly draws back, the person's other hand applies bursts of  pressure to the inanimate hand in a gentle, steady rhythm. The bursts of pressure cause the inanimate hand to move, now this way, now that. Folding fingers, and then unfolding them again. Twisting a wrist, and turning the hand round on itself. One gesture after the other.

As the camera continues to pull back gradually, it reveals that the hands, the inanimate and the leader, both belong to Cate Blanchett. At first she doesn't acknowledge the camera. Her eyes are focussed downwards on the movement of her hands.  Then, as the camera shot locks to a stop, Blanchett takes her inanimate hand, breaking the illusion that it cannot move on its own, slides it into her pocket, as if putting away some toy, and then raises her eyes to look straight down the camera, defiant.

It is a moment.

This short excerpt won't do the whole film justice. But that's ok. Maybe you're just going to have to find that room one day, all for yourself.

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