Synopsis: During the Cannes Film Festival of 1982, Wenders persuades a number of film directors to lock themselves in a hotel room, switch on the camera and ponder on the question “What is the future of cinema?”.
Chambre 666 7.5
eyelights: Michelangelo Antonioni. Werner Herzog. Steven Spielberg.
eyesores: the brevity of most of the interviews.
‘Chambre 666’ is a short documentary film that Wim Wenders shot in 1982 at the Cannes Film festival. It consists of interviews with many of his peers, directors who all happened to be at Cannes and were willing to participate in his exercise.
Michelangelo Antonioni, Maroun Bagdadi, Ana Carolina, Mike De Leon, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Jean-Luc Godard, Romain Goupil, Monte Hellman, Werner Herzog, Robert Kramer, Paul Morrissey, Susan Seidelman, Noël Simsolo, Steven Spielberg, Wim Wenders and Yilmaz Güney all participated.
His query: “Was cinema going to go on as an art form? Or were we indeed witnesses its very end? Would it be replaced by something else?”. Apparently it was a bad year at Cannes and he couldn’t help but feel a certain gloom.
So he rented the only room left anywhere, Room 666 (which undoubtedly was untaken because of it numerical/religious connection), set up a camera, an audio recorder, ushered in the directors in turn and had them read and respond to a few written statements.
Prefaced with “This is an enquiry about the future of cinema”, he provided them with the following context before asking them his question:
1. More and more movies look like TV series in terms of lighting, framing and editing. For large parts of the audience all over the world a television aesthetic has replaced a cinematic aesthetic.
2. Fewer and fewer movies are made.
3. There is a focus towards big productions: we do less but distribute more widely. Small movies tend to disappear.
4. Film on VHS are available very quickly.
The question posed to them: “Is cinema dying out as a language, will it soon be a defunct art form?”
Each director mused on this question in each their own way, some at length and others in just a few words. The most eloquent and interesting ones were Antonioni, Herzog and Spielberg, who were mostly optimistic and pragmatic on the subject.
Many of them had very little to say. While Wenders originally planned to leave the interviews uncut, but ultimately decided to edit many of them because there was a lot of dead time and repetition; this left some of these directors with barely any screen time.
Of note, Yilmaz Güney couldn’t be there in person because he was in hiding. – so Wenders pasted a picture of him on the room’s TV and played an audio recording of his interview. As well, as Fassbinder passed the camera to leave, he waved goodbye; he died three weeks later.
Interestingly, Wenders had intended to slate each interview, but later decided to leave the directors to start and stop the cameras and tape recorders by themselves, at their leisure. This was an interesting approach because it left the participants alone in the room, talking to themselves.
The set-up was very simple: one chair at a small table, in front of camera, with a tape recorder. On the table behind the participants: a large window and balcony, with a TV playing over their left shoulder, on a desk/dresser (Wenders purposely left it on to highlight their so-called enemy).
The film is also very simplistic. It consists of basic credits, red letters on a black background, and the interviews themselves. There are bookends of a large cedar found between the airport and the highway, backed by unusually ominous atmospheric music. But that’s it. That’s the film.
‘Chambre 666’ is not an especially riveting documentary, of course. It’s mostly of interest for film buffs, people who want to hear their favourite or iconic film directors discuss this issue. In fact, that’s the only reason I picked it up – it’s frequently referred to by other directors, in interviews.
But it’s of little interest to the average audience. Despite its intriguing title, they likely wouldn’t care one bit about what took place in Room 666.
Date of viewing: March 19, 2014