Bill Morrison

M.: Bill Morrison. Mus.: David Lang. Prod.: Bill Morrison, Maria Vinogradova in collaborazione con Picture Palace Pictures. DCP. Col.

T. it.: Italian title. T. int.: International title. T. alt.: Alternative title. Sog.: Story. Scen.: Screenplay. F.: Cinematography. M.: Editing. Scgf.: Set Design. Mus.: Music. Int.: Cast. Prod.: Production Company. L.: Length. D.: Running Time. f/s: Frames per second. Bn.: Black e White. Col.: Color. Da: Print source

Film Notes

In July 2016 I got an email from the Icelandic composer Jóhann Jóhannsson, who had heard that a commercial fisherman in Iceland had recently found four reels of a Soviet film in his net. The reels were recovered 20 miles off the west coast of Iceland: at the bottom, and in the middle of, the Atlantic Ocean, not far from where the continental plates meet, meaning they were found just at the geological division between East and West.

The film, Derevenskiy detektiv (1969), was not a lost, rare, or even, to my mind a particularly good film. It is well-known to Russians of a certain age, and it is still shown on television in Russia with some regularity. I noted that its star, Mikhail Zharov, had had an extraordinarily long and productive career in both film and in theater.

As I often make new films out of disused old films, I was interested in learning more. The next year I traveled to Iceland and to Moscow. In Iceland I interviewed the fisherman Gisli Gylfason and the archivist Erlendur Sveinsson who had recovered the film. And in Moscow I interviewed the curator Peter Bagrov, who led me on a deep dive into Zharov’s filmography.

Tragically Jóhann died in February 2018 at the age of 48 and I began to think about the film I was making as being about mortality and immortality. It’s about what one leaves behind, and how that reflects the world in which you lived in. It’s about what makes up a life, and the vessels that carry it through this world and into the next one.

With that in mind, I approached my friend and frequent collaborator David Lang with this project, The Village Detective: a song cycle. David was inspired by the fact that, after having sat on the bottom of the middle of the Atlantic Ocean for nearly 50 years, this film had new stories to tell. We arrived at the idea of a soundtrack for a single accordion – a single set of lungs diving into the ocean to retrieve this story and breathe life back into an archaic film. The extraordinary music David wrote perfectly captures this, and the beautiful, tragic and inexorable drift of time.

Bill Morrison

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