Interchange

Brian M. Cassidy, Melanie Shatzky
2018

16.02. 18:00 Eng. subtitles Kino Arsenal 1
17.02. 19:30 Eng. subtitles CineStar IMAX
19.02. 14:00 Eng. subtitles Delphi Filmpalast
24.02. 22:00 Eng. subtitles CineStar 8

62 min. English, French.

A traffic interchange on the edge of Montreal, where multi-lane highways criss-cross and curve around one another, perched on concrete pillars that carry them over the run-down neighbourhood below. A zone that is neither part of the city, nor of the suburbs, more the anonymous space in between. Its precise topography is anyway impossible to grasp, for the camera always clings patiently to the streets. At times, the focus is on pure observation, on watching traffic and pedestrians make their way through sun, shadow and signs as horns parp and engines roar, or alighting on all that indexes life beyond these roads: the missing dog poster in the dandelions, the wreath on the lamppost, the receiver off the hook in the phone box. At others, the directors’ hands are more keenly felt: the people placed in front of the camera carry awareness of it in their poses and the colours are just that little bit heightened, adding a thin layer of artifice to a place already oddly unreal. Perhaps it’s because no one sticks around long enough to detect its quiet appeal, everyone’s in too much of a hurry, as the chanson at the end gently chides: “It’s not only cars that go to 100. Time, too, rushes by.” (James Lattimer)

Brian M. Cassidy was born in 1977 in Poughkeepsie, New York, USA. He studied English Literature in New Paltz, New York, and completed a degree in Photography, Video & Related Media at the School of Visual Arts in New York City. Since 2004, he has collaborated with Melanie Shatzky on film and photography projects, and in 2005, they founded the film production company Pigeon Projects together. Cassidy also works as a curator and lecturer. Interchange is his third full-length film.

Melanie Shatzky was born in 1976 in Montreal, Canada. In 2002, she earned a degree in Photography from Concordia University in Montreal, and in 2006, a degree in Photography, Video & Related Media from the School of Visual Arts in New York City. Since 2004, she has collaborated with Brian M. Cassidy on film and photography projects. In 2005, they founded the film production company Pigeon Projects together. Melanie Shatzky also works as a curator and lecturer. Interchange is her third full-length film.

A large concrete heart

With INTERCHANGE, we have sought to create a portrait of life alongside an imposing highway.
Drawing on our background in photography, we use deep-focus colour cinematography and a deliberately paced editing approach to create carefully constructed scenarios: a young girl plays alone on a backyard swing while large semi-trailer trucks barrel past behind her; a missing dog poster flutters in the overgrown grass of a highway median, advertising to no one; city residents, young and old, smoke cigarettes in quiet reverie while waiting for buses which may or may not arrive; a symphony of car horns, tires on gravel and the hiss and groan of commercial vehicles become the film’s ever-present soundtrack.
The highway depicted in INTERCHANGE is less the subject of the film than its organising structure: a large concrete heart whose arteries intersect with the landscape and its residents in often startling ways, and serve as the framework for an extended meditation on the individual and their surroundings in the post-industrial age. (Brian M. Cassidy, Melanie Shatzky)

Conversation with Brian M. Cassidy and Melanie Shatzky: “All while looking at cars stuck in traffic”

Ansgar Vogt: Where exactly is your film set?

Brian M. Cassidy, Melanie Shatzky: In and around the outskirts of Montreal.

How did your film project start?

We happened upon a unique vantage point of a highway interchange slated for demolition. We were familiar with the interchange itself, but this particular vantage point was foreign to us and we became fascinated by its stark and imposing juxtaposition with the people who lived alongside it. It was always meant to be a film project, but one that drew heavily on our photographic background.

How did you meet your protagonists?

Our approach was largely an intuitive one. We were looking to film landscapes, objects and people all with the same level of engagement – meaning there was no real hierarchy in terms of these categories. For the portraits, we were interested in people who appeared to be very rooted in their environment, and occasionally those who seemed dislocated, such as the older man we see talking on the payphone as the traffic rushes by. For the most part, we met these people while walking along neighbourhoods that line the highway.

Your protagonists do not talk – except in one scene later in the film.

The non-verbal approach was part of the original concept. Hearing someone talk at some point reminds us that people have a voice, that they have agency.

How did you work with the protagonists? To what extent are they ‘staged’, for instance in the scene with the young man holding a fan?

They were staged in the sense that we told them where to stand or sit and for how long. For the most part, the people were filmed very close to where we met them. The guy with the fan was just cycling by while holding that broken fan. We saw him and asked if he would stop for a portrait. He said yes; we filmed him, and then he was back on his way again.

Could you please elaborate on your sound design – and also on your visual design and your camera concept?

The sound is a blend of natural and designed elements. We tried to create a sound palette that is organic to what we see and hear over the course of the filming, but at the same time, one that allowed us to bring those elements together in dramatic ways. As the film is largely landscape-driven, we wanted to employ a deep focus so that all elements are seen in detail. Our intention was to place the viewer within the spaces and invite them to move their attention around at will.

Why did you choose the song “Déjà” by Paul Colline and Paul Maye for the ending of the film?

We chose that song because of its wistful quality. It felt like an occasion to show our hand and reflect on time, growing old and how we spend our years, all while looking at cars stuck in traffic.

(Interview by Ansgar Vogt, January 2018)

Production Brian M. Cassidy, Melanie Shatzky. Production company Pigeon Projects (Montreal, Canada). Directors Brian M. Cassidy, Melanie Shatzky. Director of photography Brian M. Cassidy, Melanie Shatzky. Editing Brian M. Cassidy, Melanie Shatzky. Sound design Brian M. Cassidy, Melanie Shatzky. Sound Brian M. Cassidy, Melanie Shatzky.

Films

Brian M. Cassidy: 2007: God Provides (9 min., co-directed by Melanie Shatzky), The Delaware Project (15 min., co-directed by Melanie Shatzky). 2010: Gazelle, New Year’s Day (4 min., co-directed by Melanie Shatzky). 2011: The Patron Saints (72 min., co-directed by Melanie Shatzky). 2012: Francine (74 min., Forum 2012, co-directed by Melanie Shatzky). 2018: Interchange.

Melanie Shatzky: 2007: God Provides (9 min., co-directed by Brian M. Cassidy), The Delaware Project (15 min., co-directed by Brian M. Cassidy). 2010: Gazelle, New Year’s Day (4 min., co-directed by Brian M. Cassidy). 2011: The Patron Saints (72 min., co-directed by Brian M. Cassidy). 2012: Francine (74 min., Forum 2012, co-directed by Brian M. Cassidy). 2018: Interchange.