The Sea Behind Her Head — Scott Barley © 2020 1
The Sea Behind Her Head — Scott Barley © 2020

Scott Barley shares his nocturnal reflections on landscapes and filmmaking.


She awoke.

She felt beneath her:
A small plot of land.

She looked up
And the night presented itself.

She procured a shroud from the Night’s well.
She wrapped it around her
And the darkness diffused.

Through velveteen dark
She saw herself
From before.


I’ll be your Mirror

I see the body, the landscapes, and the sky, or the unknown beyond as shivered mirrors of one another. They are all interconnected, in a mystic way, but also in a very lucid, scientific way.

The landscapes hold scars of the past, like our bodies, of history, and stars are like scars of the past too, colossal explosions of celestial energy, that eventually created these landscapes before us, and our bodies. The inside and the outside, history and present, and future, are all held tremulously within these mirrors, utterly intertwined, seemingly invisibly, with one another.

Science has proven we are literally made of stardust. We can look upon – in awe – of the night sky. Because of how far the light has to travel, to gaze at the stars is to stare back into time itself. It is a mirror of ourselves and the landscapes around us.

We see them, these tiny specks of light, and yet it is like staring into a mirror of death, the death of us from before, and now we exist in another form, and we are able to bear witness to that; to stare at our own death in that mirror, while we remain in this form, alive, here, now. We die and live again, and live to see our previous death, our ancient death.

The night sky, this mirror is an infinite black pool; a cathedral full of ghosts; the ghosts of stars… stars that in some cases no longer exist – the very stars that we are now made of. We are the guest, and the stars are our host. And now the stars are our ghosts. I find it incredible. The very stars that now form our landscape, both exterior landscapes (our world), and our own interior landscape (the organs of our body) are in that mirror above us, just in another form.

Perhaps we have no purpose in life except to one day return, after this death, to pass through that mirror, and reunify with the stars that birthed us. To become the Before, or the Whole (whatever you want to call it) – again.


Flesh as Landscape,
Landscape as Flesh

I think with each film, I have moved further and further away from conventional representations of the figure – whether that be Animalia or on a few occasions, people – but as I have done so, I have become more interested in figuration; in how I can render the known unknown to us again – the sunset and its myriad colours, arresting in its silent beauty, or the body, as if it is alien, a world of different surfaces and contours (Womb, 2017). My aim is to make you – the viewer – become the protagonist of the film, to be the avatar itself, wherein you are emblazoning yourself upon the images, through and into them, exploring its worlds, through darkness and light, along with me. We wade through it together, and the moon in the night sky is always like seeing it for the first time.

I want to go beyond the figure, so that you are the silent figure. And to venture toward and into what is considered the inexpressible, that which cannot be said in words, or with lucid physicality, but instead what surfaces only in dreams, to create a cinema that passes beyond figuration, beyond the object, and instead renders the liminality between light and darkness itself as its own subject, movement and stillness as its own subject, paroxysms of experience as its own subject, to express and feel the weight of what is known and what is unknown to us – together. The unknown should be our light, our lure, our guide to pursue new images, new sounds, new ideas, and to fear it; but we must submit to that fear. Fear and ecstasy go hand in hand. That is, in part, I think what The Sublime is. The aim too, is to make a film where each figure, each object, every landscape is as real and yet as spectral as the wind; utterly present but immaterial in itself – it can only be seen or felt through its manipulation on “others”. A film, where the incorporeal is the flesh of the film, the body and extremes of representation and of perception, that of the senses – a further place – because that is what is most strong and real, and I believe only cinema can get us to that point. I have not got to that point yet, but I feel I’m slowly getting closer.


The Blind Child

The child feels things so much more strongly than the adult. The child is blind, a porous sponge. They feel to learn. Whereas later in life, we tend to learn through non-sensual currency, which I think is against our nature in a way.

The warm and wet soil beneath their feet. They wandered beyond the end of their garden for the first time: The woods. Deep and into the penumbra of the forest they went, following the sun in shadow. Blood red and luring green hues of the last sunset hour, burning wild fire through the trees, right there! And then back into the child’s retinas.

I think, perhaps, the noblest art of all is to return us the eyes and sense of childhood. If anything cinema is a way of tracing our steps to childhood, from which we came, to learn to fully feel again. To feel everything as if it were for the very first time. I think that in order to reconnect with our true selves, to feel deeper, we must unlearn our learned intelligence.


The Flesh of the Wind

I am waiting for the form to reveal itself. It will come in like a wind. A living thing. Nameless, invisible, but so present. When the form reveals itself, it will be when I am lost. The images will give birth to themselves. They will move, they will breathe and cascade, autonomously. The flesh will be of wind, of sea, of noise, of black. Textures forging their own paths. Spectral but present. Immaterial but real. Realer than real. They will unmoor themselves from themselves, deliquescing into new forms, like water in air. This is how I wish to make films; to be patient, and only channel some-thing when it comes. Something more elemental and unknown to me – through me. When you are true to form, I believe form becomes that… It becomes. It will give birth to itself, rise and murder itself out of sheer, inherent tumult.


The Sea Behind Her Head — Scott Barley © 2020 2
The Sea Behind Her Head — Scott Barley © 2020


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