The Second Journey (To Uluru)

Arthur Cantrill, Corinne Cantrill
1981

15.02.2019 19:00 OV Delphi Filmpalast
17.02.2019 14:00 OV Werkstattkino@silent green

74 min. English.

As the camera moves gently from afar into the very heart of the monolith, the magic of the holiest site of the Aborigines unfolds in shimmering nuances of light.
Shot at different times of day, the close-up and panorama shots of this more than 500-million-year-old stone formation combine silence and acoustically altered birdsong to convey a feeling of timelessness into which a sense of loss is also inscribed. The somnambulistic moonrise in the great sky seems almost like an abstract painting and yet it is real. The areas of discolouration in the film material caused by problems in the developing process were deliberately left in the film as a metaphor for the looming threat to this natural environment through bushfires and tourism.
The Second Journey (To Uluru) is a continuation of the Touching the Earth films, in which Arthur and Corinne Cantrill turned their full attention to the Australian landscape. The films found little resonance at the time they were made, with this tribute to the outback coming across as too disconcerting and unsettling, both formally and thematically: an indication of the political dimension of the film. (Angelika Ramlow)

Arthur Cantrill was born in Sydney, Australia in 1938 and studied electrical engineering. After spending four years in London, where he worked as a film editor, he returned to Australia in 1969 to start a scholarship at the Australian National University (ANU) in Canberra. Since 1960, he and his wife Corinne Cantrill have been making 8mm and 16mm films together. They started out with films for children and art documentaries, and soon began making experimental films as well. Their joint filmography comprises more than 150 titles, including multi-screen installations and performances. The focus of their work is a filmic engagement with themes such as landscape, colour, light, film history and film technology. Many soundtracks for their films were realised by Arthur Cantrill using a range of ingenious methods ranging from subtly composed environmental soundscapes to abstract electronic music and musique concrete. International retrospectives and exhibitions have brought Arthur and Corinne Cantrill to places including Berlin, where they lived for several months during the 1980s as part of a scholarship from the German Academic Exchange Services (DAAD). From 1971 until 2000, they published the magazine Cantrills Filmnotes, an international journal dedicated to experimental film, video and related arts. Arthur Cantrill was an associate professor at the University of Melbourne until 1996.

Corinne Cantrill was born in Sydney, Australia in 1928 and studied botany. Since 1960, she and her husband Arthur Cantrill have been making 8mm and 16mm films together. They started out with films for children and art documentaries, and soon began making experimental films as well. After living in London for four years, she and Arthur Cantrill returned to Australia in 1969 to start a scholarship at the Australian National University (ANU) in Canberra. The Cantrills’ joint filmography comprises more than 150 titles, including multi-screen installations and performances. The focus of their work is a filmic engagement with themes such as landscape, colour, light, film history and film technology. International retrospectives and exhibitions have brought the couple to places including Berlin, where they lived for several months during the 1980s as part of a scholarship from the German Academic Exchange Services (DAAD). From 1971 until 2000, they published the magazine Cantrills Filmnotes, an international journal dedicated to experimental film, video and related arts.

Australian landscape and the practice of filmmaking 

In our programme we are showing two new landscape films, each from a different stream of work. None of our films is to be considered in isolation: each is strongly related to the films which preceded it and to particular groupings of those films. As Margaret Preston said: “She does not imagine she has advanced in her art – only moved. The ladder of art lies flat, not vertical.”
Over the past 12 years we have been interested in the nature of cinematic perception, the nature and possibilities of the film screen and the potential of cinematic processes and film history (including our own) as subjects. Related to this is our ongoing research into two- and three-colour separation. Although we have worked with material other than landscape – in HARRY HOOTON (1970), 4000 FRAMES (1970), SKIN OF YOUR EYE (1972), the BALDWIN SPENCER SERIES (1975), etc. – and no doubt shall do so again, in recent years we have become increasingly interested in pursuing the relationship between landscape and film form, at the same time as deepening our consciousness of Aboriginal Australia.
We see this partly as a response to foreign domination of Australian life at every level, a domination nowhere more evident than in cinema and specifically in the avant-garde. In an attempt to avoid the influence of fashionable filmmaking modes from New York, London and Europe we have turned to Australian landscape as subject: we must begin to relate to the image content of the place where we were born and respond formally to its imperatives. Empty of humanity and thus free from the risk of emotionally based personal identification, the landscape offers us the basic subject matter for our formal concerns. We are interested in a continuing dialogue between content and form. We also see this synthesis of landscape and film form as bringing together our attitudes as citizens to the conservation of land, forests and, seashore, and to Aboriginal land rights. We have no difficulty in sharing the Aboriginal belief that the landscape is the repository of the spiritual life of this continent.
WARRAH (15 min., 16mm, colour, sound, 1980) is the most recent of 10 films made over the past five years in the course of investigating the possibilities of three- colour separations. We have been rediscovering an early process, using a simple Bolex camera (in contrast to the elaborate beam-splitter cameras required by the Technicolor process) to return to James Clerk Maxwell’s 1861 experiment: each study is filmed three times on black-and-white film through red, green and blue filters consecutively. Colour is synthesised when the three black-and-white negative separations are printed in superimposition onto colour film stock with the same filtration that is used in filming. The static, unchanging elements in each study are rendered in perfect naturalistic colour, while the moving elements (cloud, foliage, shadows) are manifested in ‘unnatural’ primary colours.
Our earlier three-colour separation films were mainly naturalistic, with only small elements of movement; the later ones – NOTES ON THE PASSAGE OF TIME…, COAST AT PEARL BEACH and WARRAH’s direct forerunner, ANGOPHOPRA AND SANDSTONE and (1979) – have moved towards a stronger mixing of stillness and movement.
WARRAH was filmed in the coastal sandstone bush of the Hawkesbury River area in New South Wales. It is a film of rock, foliage, angophoras, rock pools, the movement of shadows, water, light reflected from water, and reflections of trees and clouds in rock pools. The three colour layers of the images are revealed during the film in a variety of ways.
WARRAH is the first of our three-colour separation films to have a soundtrack, in this case an unaltered recording of insects and choruses of kookaburras at varying distances from us. The layered structure of the sound relates to the layered nature of the three-colour separation imagery.
We posit this film with BOUDDI, filmed ten years ago a few miles from WARRAH: each works in different ways with the visually complex environment of the coastal bush.
In the same way, THE SECOND JOURNEY (TO ULURU) (…) should be posited against AT ULURU (1976), made on our first visit to Central Australia. Both have Uluru (Ayers Rock) as their subject, both are of much the same length, both were filmed in summer, two years apart; but each is quite different from the other.
AT ULURU is a film of clarity, simplicity and luminosity, made in a spirit of optimism and euphoria occasioned by this most wonderful of places at a time of unusual natural abundance. THE SECOND JOURNEY (TO ULURU), filmed after the area had been badly burned out, approaches this place with a burden of pessimism. Since our first visit we had come to know much more about Aboriginal claims to Uluru and the large-scale commercial developments planned there which will fundamentally change the nature of the place. The biggest problem is the feeling that we are helpless to alter the forces at work there, that we are witnessing a situation that has been repeated all over Australia. Nothing is spared from greed, not even the great natural shrine of Uluru.
AT ULURU is basically a middle-distance film; THE SECOND JOURNEY (TO ULURU)   (subtitled THE PRACTICE OF FILMMAKING) moves closer and focuses on parts of Uluru we had not explored before. The extreme heat dictated our work pattern – the weather had been much milder on our previous visit – and the film is structured around the daily filmmaking practice we adopted.

The preoccupations of the early morning
Seven early morning time-lapse sequences, all intercut, filmed at some distance from the monolith.

The work of mid-morning
We move closer to Uluru, towards Lagari, right up to and into the Lagari cave. In other mid-morning sequences, we trace the north-eastern face of Uluru; the camera slides over the scaly ‘skin’ of the rock, moving in and out of shadowy hollows.

Study for three planes of rock
A spatial ‘play’ for camera and rock surfaces.

The activities at the height of day
As the heat became unbearable we withdrew into some of the many caves of Uluru: some geologically monstrous and frightening, others delicate, like frozen wave forms, still others endowed with fading Aboriginal drawings and paintings.

The occupations of late afternoon
We move away from the caves, through the trees at the base of Uluru to the open plain and sand hills for a series of evening sequences, the warm colours of late afternoon light combining with the rusty, ferrous oxide tones of the rock.

Early evening
The film ends with a series of moonrises over Uluru, inviting a consideration of the distant lunar rock and craters in juxtaposition with the monolith – both formed from basically the same materials.

Apart from the difference in our state of mind when filming AT ULURU compared with THE SECOND JOURNEY (TO ULURU) and the disparity in climate and vegetation, there was another difference we did not know about until we returned to Melbourne: all the film had been badly processed by a careless film laboratory. AT ULURU has a brilliance and clarity of colour, while, because of the processing error, THE SECOND JOURNEY (TO ULURU) has a turbidity in the colour which, though distressing at the time, finally continued the cinematic metaphor at a fundamental level.
In AT ULURU the sound was sparse, naturalistic and mainly unmixed. In THE SECOND JOURNEY (TO ULURU) the sound is derived from complex mixes of bird calls and equalised insect recordings made in the caves of Uluru. The caves in summer are inhabited by millions of sandflies, wasps, mosquitoes, flies and other insects, and their sound at times is like human singing and whispering. As we moved about in the caves the pitch of their sound changed. This elusive effect proved very difficult to record, but by isolating and enhancing the subtle sound frequencies with a graphic equaliser we were able to create a series of different sound mixes which were similar to our experience of the sound in the caves and at the same time suggested the accretions of time at Uluru: the millions of years of geological changes; the interaction of those slow rock changes with the desert, the dust, the smoke, the damp, with insects, animals and humanity. (Arthur and Corinne Cantrill, Catalogue of the 30th Melbourne Festival 1981)

Production Corinne Cantrill. Production company Arthur & Corinne Cantrill (Castlemaine, Australia). Directed by Arthur Cantrill, Corinne Cantrill. Screenplay Corinne Cantrill. Cinematography Arthur Cantrill, Corinne Cantrill. Editing Arthur Cantrill, Corinne Cantrill. Sound design Arthur Cantrill. Sound Arthur Cantrill. Digital restoration Arsenal - Institut für Film und Videokunst. With Corinne Cantrill (Narrator).

Premiere June 14, 1981, Melbourne Film Festival

Films

selection - Arthur and Corinne Cantrill: 1964: Dream (4 min.). 1965: Robert Klippel Sculpture Studies (5 films, 5 min. each). 1969: Moving Statics (28 min.), Home Movie - A Day in the Bush (4 min.), Eikon (4 min.), White-Orange-Green (4 min., Forum 1984). 1970: Bouddi (8 min.), 4000 Frames, An Eye-Opener Film (3 min.), Earth Message (23 min., Forum 1984), Harry Hooton (83 min.). 1971: Video Self-Portrait (6 min.). 1973: Skin of Your Eye (117 min.). 1974: At Eltham (24 min.). 1977: Ocean at Point Lookout (46 min., part of the series "Touching the Earth"), Near Coober Pedy (15 min., part of the series "Touching the Earth"), At Uluru (80 min., part of the series "Touching the Earth"), Katatjuta (24 min., part of the series "Touching the Earth"). 1978: Heat Shimmer (13 min., Forum 1984), Printer Light Play (6 min., Forum 1984). 1979: Notes on the Passage of Time (14 min., Forum 1984). 1980: Rock Wallaby and Blackbird (66 min., part of the series "Grain of the Voice"), Two Women (32 min., part of the series "Grain of the Voice"), Seven Sisters (19 min., part of the series "Grain of the Voice"), Warrah (15 min., Forum 1984), Experiments in Three-Colour Separation (21 min.). 1982: The Second Journey (To Uluru). 1983: Passage (65 min.). 1984: Waterfall (18 min.), In This Life's Body (147 min., Forum 1985), Rainbow Diary (17 min., with Ivor Cantrill). 1986: Notes on Berlin, the Divided City (30 min.). 1989: Myself When Fourteen (19 min., with Ivor Cantrill). 1995: Ivor Paints (78 min.). 1997: Airey's Inlet (6 min.). 1998: Garden of Chromatic Disturbance (13 min.). 1999: The City of Chromatic Dissolution (22 min.), The City of Chromatic Intensity (5 min.). 2000: The Land is Not Empty (26 min.). 2006: The Room of Chromatic Mystery (7 min.).

Photo: © Corinne und Arthur Cantrill