Cinema is a lively and never-ending conversation that unfolds and evolves across time and space, which is part of what makes it such a dynamic and enduring art form. In this series, some of our favorite independent film directors share the films and filmmakers that have shaped the way they make movies. It’s sort of like DVD commentary (remember that?) but interactive! Welcome to Filmmakers Under the Influence.
This week, we’re hearing from FIXer Gleb Osatinski, whose new short film The Quantified Self premiered at the Atlanta Film Festival this past weekend. It comes to Fandor library timed with its screening at the Sarasota Film Festival, and it joins Osatinski’s previous films: the award-winning The House at the Edge of the Galaxy and Pisces of an Unconscious Mind. Osatinski has a background in physics and worked in finance before he embraced the pursuit of filmmaking, and his films use magical realism, dream logic and compelling characters to create worlds touched by both surrealism and science fiction, though they look in most ways identical to ours.
Gleb was generous enough to tell us, in his own words, about the rich tapestry of cinematic influences behind his newest effort, and predictably (in the best way), it’s full of iconoclastic auteurs with an eye towards both aesthetics and ethics. Let’s hear what he has to say:
The Quantified Self is a fictional story about a family that lives isolated in a house packed with measuring devices. By measuring their lives, the family tries to reach a family benchmark number that will mean perfection. Measuring becomes their religion, which they trust more than themselves, but eventually their trust brings them towards results that they cannot quantify.
While creating this film I was often greatly influenced by works of Andrei Tarkovsky. Tarkovsky often explores interior terrains of characters that are waiting for something to happen in their lives — something that can be felt rather than logically deciphered. He reflects on human spirituality and what it really means to be human, showing that humanity cannot be reached through scientific research and mere understanding of facts. He shows that science in the hands of over-controlling, overpowering and overly pragmatic people can be deadly: because obtaining the desired results might mean hurting or destroying another organism or even the entire planet.
In my mind, I kept coming to the same metaphor over and over of how often we are, as humans, afraid to enter a dark room where we don’t see what is inside. The fear of the unknown creates an impulse to turn the lights on and see, but this, in a way, also changes the room that we want to enter. We want to know. Not knowing simply scares us. I tend to think about that dark room as our subconscious. The subconscious is always suppressed by our desire to know and explain. We struggle constantly, stuck in a fight between the Self and the Ego. The Self is pushing for results, but the Ego is lurking in the dark.
Ingmar Bergman challenges the world of the subconscious by conducting interviews with his characters. The discrepancies between the answers they give in the interview rooms and the way they conduct themselves outside of the rooms is very revealing.
Just a few films that greatly influenced me are Scenes From a Marriage, From the Life of the Marionettes, The Rite and After the Rehearsal. A motionless interviewer peeks inside of the characters lives like an eye of the objective camera, and creates a great deal of discomfort and nervousness on the other side of the table. That’s something I tried to use in The Quantified Self, too — helplessness and isolation contrasting with the illusion of happiness and control.
The White Ribbon, directed by Michael Haneke, was another film I watched many times that helped me to shape The Quantified Self. Haneke exposes the life of a family and the character of the Priest, who never trusts his own children.
The father would rather tie a white ribbon around his children’s arms than to be able to trust in his children’s innocence again. Likewise, The Quantified Self exposes a world that offers the family empirical methods and measurements that remove the ambiguity of words. In this world, the family believes in what is measured. If you know the number, then you can do better. This is the world where devices tell the truth and it is not up to them to know otherwise.
Directors Alex van Warmerdam (and his film Borgman), and Yorgos Lanthimos (and
his films Dogtooth and more recently Alps and Lobster) helped me see the the world of the film as enclosed within a net of functional rules, so that inside, the characters must deny who they really are and what is really “natural” in favor of these rules.
Gleb also put together a list of his Fandor Picks for us, and we whole-heartedly recommend checking them out! And don’t forget to let us know what you think of his newest film, The Quantified Self. Happy watching!