MAPS 2022. PT. 10 min

a film by Lourenço Crespo

A couple watch two friends on their way to a party.

NOVOCINE: These are two films that start from a very similar point of view but represent different ways of thinking about cinema. Granary Squares is more focused on the plasticity of the film and Maps is less focused on that, but sound is a very important and crafted aspect on both films. Gonçalo has suggested that his film could even have the x2 speed option available on Vimeo so that people could watch it faster if they wish to. I feel that Granary is a film that, if you watch it on the small screen, you can do it at ease, with a different concentration.

Gonçalo Lamas: I even think that, if we ever reach a world where we can hang films on the wall, this is a film to hang on the wall, like those landscape paintings you have at your grandmother's house. For me, that would be ideal for this film. In fact, even when I was making it, the process was much closer to painting than to cinema-making. The biggest technical challenge I had was really stretching the image. In 2016, computers didn’t have such strong processing systems so, because of the digital zoom, there was a point where I had to render small portions of the film because otherwise it wouldn’t memorize the anchor point. As I got further into the film, the renders had to be of gradually shorter durations. So it was almost animation at a certain point. I was painting every moment.

NC: So you had to do it in short sequences?

Gonçalo: Exactly. At first less so, because the scale is still between 0 and 3000 and then it got to the point where the number was so big that you literally had a RAM problem keeping it in an animated process and it started freaking out. It was a bit of a fluke... In other words, I'd render up to minute 40 and then I'd have to render minutes 42, 43... Back to that frame. Obviously in the last 10 minutes it doesn't really matter where you stick it, but I always had the original shot on the edge so I knew where I was going to hit the anchor point.

NC: Our idea was to present “Maps” first and then “Granary Squares” afterwards. It makes more sense for the flow of the two films combined. Lourenço starts the zoom and Gonçalo continues it.

NC: (to Lourenço) Gonçalo has seen your film 3 times in the last hour, Lourenço!

Gonçalo: I'm sure you didn't do that with my film!

Lourenço Crespo: I saw it once yesterday!

Gonçalo: Be honest, you haven't seen all of it!

Lourenço: There was a part where I minimized the window, yes. But I saw it all. But it wasn't easy. It's not easy because you just have to look at the window.

Gonçalo: I really think it's a landscape film. In the movie theater, you can embrace it as a kind of an hallucinogenic hour and the film has other qualities when you watch it in the big screen.
The sound is also mixed in a way that it starts in the center and ends up in the 5 speakers, it's a totally different experience. But, in general, the film is something you can let happen while you go about your life. Obviously, it's difficult to communicate that, like: look, you should see it, but you don't necessarily have to. Now, I think that's the only way to see the film outside the movie theater. I think the most obvious similarity between our films is that the frame, even optically, is practically the same. We must have very similar optics. The difference is...

NC: What are the diopters of each?

Gonçalo: I can't remember, but I think it was a 40 or 30-something millimeters lens...

NC: My question was whether you see badly in the distance.

Gonçalo: I have hyperopia. So I see badly up close.

NC: Lourenço sees poorly in the distance. You’re different in that respect. That's why you might zoom in and Lourenço will prefer to observe from far away.

Lourenço: My film is very zoomed in... It's at the camera's maximum zoom-in.

Gonçalo: Anyway, one thing that is clear is that the frame, in terms of scale, is similar. And they're films without a horizon, which is something I only thought about after making mine, as something that isn't very common in cinema. It's something I find curious.

NC: It's very funny because in both films you never see the sky.

Gonçalo: It's an octagonal perspective. And I remember I didn't even think about that when I was making mine. The closest thing to the horizon in Granary Squares is that canal that runs through the top. I think it really changes what you expect from the shot...

NC: One interesting thing is that you both push yourselves to the limit, Gonçalo more in the editing and Lourenço more in the shooting, stretching how far the cameras can spy or what they can capture of human life... About that, something has made me curious in your synopsis, which is the "privately managed but privately facing square". Do you want to talk about this?

Gonçalo: It's something I thought a lot about, if that should be explicitly present in the film but then, given the very plastic path I took with the film, I ended up leaving that part barely explicit. But anyone who knows the square, or who wants to know the square, will understand a little bit about it being like this because it's part of a whole aesthetic game that happens a lot in London, public spaces that have a very present private management that involves huge surveillance cameras everywhere and sometimes well-identified security crews and very active monitoring.

NC: But what belongs to whom?

Gonçalo: In the case of King's Cross, which is probably the most central part of the city, we're talking about a radius of 2 km2 , maybe a little less, which has been completely renovated, which means that instead of warehouses and corners for dealers and people, etc., that whole area has been uprooted and various things have been built, including the extension to King's Cross station and now they’re going to build the new Google headquarters, which isn't on the shot, it's just beyond the shot, to the left. And then there's the building of the university I was studying at (Central Saint Martins) which, in itself, recovers a very old structure, which used to be one of the largest storages of grain in the UK, and that's why the square is called Granary Squares. The company that is developing all this is called Argent, which means money in French. The company was also based one floor above the floor on which I filmed. I filmed from a window in the Saint Martin's library, and they were on the top floor. And then there are all of these squares and smaller squares, which obviously have a lot of charm with all these kinds of fountains and other public interventions, but then they also have elements of urban design, of urban architecture that are more harmful. For example, those benches you see in the film, they are very long, so horrible to lie on...

NC: Hostile architecture.

Gonçalo: Exactly. And that prevents people from napping there, etc... All of this happens, however, in a territory of inclusion. In other words, this is not that more common strategy of putting spikes in front of a window or things like that. These are more, shall we say, refined ways of creating this kind of hostility. But above all, to get back to my initial point, the space looks like a public square but could never fulfill the functions of a public square. In other words, the film was made without any permission, otherwise it probably wouldn't exist. If you want to organize a protest there, you can't. The company has every right to remove you from there.

NC: It's a bit the opposite of the area where Lourenço shot Maps, Martim Moniz, which ends up being a space very inhabited and lived by the people in Lisbon.

But this square, Granary Square, this is a passing place, right?

Gonçalo: A place of passage and all sorts of other things... Back then, there was still a lot of construction going on around it, you can see people working on building sites around it in the film. Now, to the right there's a shopping center, to the left there's a kind of a fancy pub and so in the summer the square is full of kids playing in the fountains, so that space plays the role of a public square. The people who live nearby, 500m away, go there with their kids during the day, and the new yuppies who live in the new apartments on the right also go there with their dogs. On a social level, it also crosses many different realities. I used to spend a lot of time in the square, I would cross it every day.

Regarding the window from where I shot, the library is an area where people are usually reading or writing in silence, but my point was really more of an attempt to observe at the same height as the surveillance cameras that are installed around it. Not to mention that the idea of filming in 4K in 2016 wasn't that common... It was more or less the standard option for the maximum resolution possible in a digital camera, so it had a bit to do with that too. Trying to go all out with 4K.

NC: “Maps” has alot of stabilization, because it's so zoomed in, any wind is felt quite strongly.

Lourenço: All the shots have the warp stabilizer.

Gonçalo: You can feel it on the edges.

Lourenço: And it was windy that day... There are two shots where you can really feel it.

NC: You mentioned the idea of a surveillance camera, Gonçalo. Both films have a very different relationship with the point of view of who is behind the camera, we feel that in what is off screen. Whereas in Granary, it seems that it is filmed by a digital mind, almost as if a robot was dciding what was important to look at in that square. In Maps, we acknowledge the narrators, although we don't realize who they are, whether they are regular common people or some kind of other entity commenting on what is going on. One is very cold and digital, almost robotic, similar to the square’s tone, especially in winter. And the other a warmer one, during the summer, wanting to gossip and find out what other people are doing around town.

Gonçalo: I would say that my film has almost no extra-diegesis. At least it tries to accomplish that - that what you're seeing is what you're hearing.

NC: But you could have imposed the library’s sound environment much more. And you avoid that.

Gonçalo: I just wanted the sound to be in the center of the square, to wander in the center of the square and that's how the sound was recorded, even though we made several recordings afterwards.

NC: So you didn't record sound at the same time as you filmed, the sound is all built in post-prod?

Gonçalo: There were just two things I really wanted to do. One was an idea of the sound definition that would travel in the opposite direction to the image. The film starts almost as if it were underwater, it has a very powerful low pass, and then ends with full resolution. But apart from that, and the presence of water, I wanted to play with synchronies and asynchronies, it wasn't something I spent a lot of time thinking about. In the case of Lourenço, I'd like to know at what point all of that speculation arose. When did you write it?

Lourenço: So, when I first saw the streets from up there, I thought: I'm going to make this film. Two friends on their way to a party. When I sent the actors to the streets I was directing through the phone. Me, I was in Senhora do Monte (on the top of one of the seven hills in Lisbon), and they were in the streets way down there. I just had actions that I wanted them to do. In the background, there's the whole direction thing. I just said to them, "Come from here to here and at some point, one of you asks something to the other as to whether you should look there or here." They had no script, no dialogues to perform. If they did, we'd never get it done. It wouldn't work. At the end of the film, which took four hours to shoot, they were sick of doing it, so... They're not actors, they're two friends of mine, I couldn't demand that they memorize the text... But the only indications they had were just those - the directions, one of them showing the other a picture of a girl on his phone…

Gonçalo: Stacy…!

Lourenço: Stacy! (laughs) It's Stacy, yeah. And that final moment, I wanted him to point somewhere and only during the editing process I realized that you don't see him pointing. You know, but it's not exactly what I wanted to see... I imagined something else.

NC: I know we've already talked about this. In Maps, it's only at the end that he reveals that the characters are aware of the camera and in Granary, through the zoom-in, a kind of discomfort is created in the viewer that makes it impossible not to think about the properties of the camera... So it's funny how both films are about how the viewer perceives things, which is something that makes you feel a kind of sovereignty over the ants down under, when you're looking at something from a high point of observation.

Lourenço: My film is very voyeuristic. The first line the film is: look. The film is asking you to look, to see…

Gonçalo: I love this idea of trying to speculate what you see in a shared space. I've always loved it and will always find it fascinating. In my case, this was done completely blindfolded. I didn't see the shot until I got to the editing room. The shoot is the duration of the movie, so it was only afterwards that I spent three months trying to make sense of what I wanted to be coherent or not within the people who enter or leave the shot during the time I had recorded. There were no more takes. I wanted it to be a single take that would reach the end of the disk’s capacity and that would be my material to work with afterwards. There are friends of mine who pass by the square, a bunch of things that randomly appeared but it wasn't planned at all.

NC: That gives it another dimension of voyeurism. A sort of: let's see what I've got here, what I've picked up here...

Gonçalo: Yes, I was standing by the camera but I wasn't analyzing what was going on. In fact, as the movie is filmed through a window, the more astute viewer will be able to see me in the film at some point, reflected. In the first two minutes, I’m there. Me and my headphones.

NC: Do you want to talk about what you're up to now? Are you writing a new film?

Lourenço: I am writing. Trying to write more things. Writing a short film and making music. Yes, I'm always writing something. And it's going to be like this... something very similar to Maps (laughs). There are some similarities between the characters... strange, cold.

Gonçalo: I didn't find the characters cold.

Lourenço: A lot of people dislike them. At the end, the girl says that both of them have a very strange energy. People laughed a lot when it premiered at IndieLisboa and Éme, a friend of mine, said "of course, because it's such a relief when she says that" because it's like "oh okay, they're weird, I'm not the only one who thinks this, at least this character is normal". A lot of what I thought was a joke in the script, when the actors read it, they didn't read it with the tone I was expecting them to and there were scenes that I thought were serious that they did the opposite, as if it were a joke. I say that, that they're strange, because sometimes that's the expectation of what I thought was funny in the film and it doesn't come through and they're different.

NC: What about you, Gonçalo?

Gonçalo: I'm in this study/production program in a cold city in France. I made a film last year and now I'm trying to see who wants to premiere it - it’s an adaptation, something about feelings... And this year, I'm working a bit more with the idea of seeing images or the images we have to see to get to the images we want to see. A bit like the faustian bargain of digital advertising and all that. It's going to be an installation for two screens, like a street corner where two guys meet and take a piss.

directing, script & editing LOURENÇO CRESPO with MIGUEL ABRAS, JOÃO DÓRIA and FRANCISCA SALENA sound FRANCISCO CORREIA assistant director HUGO CORTEZ FERNANDES sound mix TOMÉ PALMEIRIM color correction & titles AFONSO MOTA