In 2006, being in Italy, a friend – Eliana Miglio – who had worked with me on my Italian film Uno a me, uno a te, & uno a Rafaella, asked me to think about making a film with her. I said OK, and in quick order we rounded up some other friends, a place to shoot, and I got a vague idea, and off we went to Capalbio, north of Roma, a hang-out place for sort of left-intelligentsia, and in 5 days we shot most of a totally improvised film. Shooting started the minute we arrived, and wrapped up the next week with a few sequences done in Rome. I edited as we shot, so we’d see a scene or two each evening on the computer, and roll on. It was an enjoyable process, though the content of what we were dealing with was serious and heavy. As they provided for my meals, the cost for me was around $50. Of course no one was paid. For more on the process of its making, see this.
2006 | miniDV | Color | Sound | 77 minutes
Concept, direction, camera, edit, graphics, sound : Jon Jost
Music: Erling Wold
Premiered at the Rotterdam Film Festival, Jan 2006
Shown at: Jeonju (digital competition), Buenos Aires Independent, Warsaw, Frankfurt, Paris/Berlin
Placed in a small seaside area north of Rome, of late popular with left leaning artists and intelligentsia, La Lunga Ombra provides a portrait of 3 professional women under the hidden duress of post 9-11 Italy, and more broadly, Europe. They have gone together because one has been left by her husband and the other two seek to comfort her. Instead, however, the other two women are drawn into a vortex of sadness, perhaps provoked by their friend’s domestic tragedy, but as the film implies, perhaps more by the undertow of the larger effects of 9-11 as it impacts Europe.
An opening sequence at a photographer’s studio where a woman, having some kind of publicity shot taken by a well-known Roman photographer, receives a telephone call apparently of a serious nature.
A trio of women arrives by the sea on a darkening evening, entering a small house. The abandoned woman,Anna (played by Agnese Nano) takes a walk. Her friends, Constanza (Eliana Miglio) and Giulia (Gianfelici) confer with one another about Anna’s state, which draws them into their own feelings and conflicts. In the morning there are ominous signs. Constanza, and then Giulia try to force Anna to talk about her feelings and she refuses. They go to the beach. Giulia, a journalist of some kind is called to Rome and leaves on a train. She interviews a writer (Albinati) who has been in Afghanistan The other two visit Capalbio and have a lunch together in which their conflicts in views open up while at the same time they seem to fuse together. They return to the house where Constanza tells a long story drawn from a book she is writing. The story angers Anna who abruptly leaves.
Another day, Anna and Constanza go to a rain swept beach, and briefly argue.
Giulia speaks directly to the camera of her anxiety and fear, her sense of the meaninglessness of her life; then Anna and Constanza, facing the camera together, speak venomously of one another.
In a long near silent sequence the three sit in the house, seized with sorrow. Giulia speaks of her lover or husband who is in Iraq as a reporter.
Giulia in an editing studio receives a telephone call. Obliquely it is understood her husband has been kidnapped.
The film concludes with an al Qaeda tape of a man being beheaded.
Posted by acquarello on Jan 30, 2007
On the surface, Jon Jost’s austere, somber, and uncompromisingly caustic improvisational rumination on the pall cast by the aftermath of 9/11 on the European consciousness, La Lunga Ombra seems an uncharacteristic departure from the intractable consciousness of middle America that pervade his early films – a post tragedy portrait that converges more towards claustrophobic, Bergmanesque angst rather than the transformative, post-apocalyptic, loss of innocence grief that its conceptual framework would seem to suggest. Loosely structured around the lives and mundane gestures of a trio of close knit friends – a literary figure (Eliana Miglio) (whose agency appears to be in the process of publishing a photo-essay journal on the faces of colonial-era terrorism) and a television producer (Simonetta Gianfelici) who retreat to a remote, off-season seaside cabin in order to tend to a mutual friend, Anna’s (Agnese Nano) emotional crisis and ensuing depression after being unexpectedly abandoned by her cruel (and perhaps abusive) husband – the film is also a provocative, broader exposition on the intangible, often corrosive collateral damage of psychological warfare and demoralization.
Intercutting the quotidian rituals of women in the stasis of their isolation (as they alternately attempt to console Anna by lending a sympathetic ear as she struggles to articulate her sense of loss, distracting her thoughts with idle conversation and whimsical parlor games, and encouraging her to reclaim her identity by returning to youthful pursuits) with textural and increasingly abstract archival footage from acts of terrorism, Jost reinforces an atmosphere of disjunction between characters and context that, in retrospect, perhaps reveals the underlying separation between action and consequence that pervades the film. A videotaped interview with a businessman recounting his experience while working in postwar Afghanistan alludes to this bifurcation when he describes his observation of the absence of everyday interaction between men and women in contemporary, post-Taliban Afghan society, a culturally enabled separation that leads to a certain level displaced intimacy not usually found in patriarchal cultures.
Conversely, the friends’ hermetic retreat also becomes a form of artificial segregation – this time, from the community of men – where their interaction is relegated to the margins (represented only as distant photographs hanging from walls or leafed through in books (uncoincidentally, as symbols of warfare or violence), or existing in the periphery as fire wood vendors, technicians, or photographers). However, inasmuch as instinctual regression serves as a defense mechanism against inflicted wounds, it also exposes the myopia of victimization. In a sense, this defensive retreat towards isolation – and in particular, a self-imposed isolation in order to reinforce a sense of solidarity and foster moral support – not only illustrates the core of human nature’s response to trauma, but also introduces the idea of the women’s private turmoil as a microcosm of post 9/11 consciousness where grief, loss, fear, and confusion have invariably given way, not only to isolationism, self-righteousness, and intransigence, but more importantly, to a self-perpetuating moral contamination and spiritual inertia that continues to fester long after the crisis has subsided. Moreover, by incorporating granular and pixellated images from the World Trade Center attack that appear increasingly impressionistic and decontextualized (paradoxically creating an inverse proportionality between the distance to the image and its resolution), the juxtaposition becomes a potent metaphor for the abstraction inherent in the psychology of terrorism, where effectiveness is measured, not in conveying graphic realism or maximized casualty, but in the manipulation of public sentiment through the global domination of media images. It is this quest for sensationalism and media occupation that is ultimately encapsulated by the controversial inclusion of a gruesome and desensitizing ritual execution footage taken in postwar Iraq that concludes the film – a grim and sobering reminder of society’s own implication in the creation of the spectacle, in the systematic corruption of its own soul.
By Kevin Thomas, Special to The LA Times
April 13, 2007
In 1992, Jost took off on a 10-year sojourn in Europe, and much of his work made there has yet to surface in the U.S. He returned to Europe last year, where in Italy he shot La Lunga Ombra (The Long Shadow), which the UCLA Film and Television Archive will present Sunday at its Billy Wilder Theater in the Hammer Museum in Westwood. His years in Europe have enriched him as an artist, and with this film he, in turn, has challenged his audience stylistically as never before — at least not since his experimental filmmaking early in his career.
La Lunga Ombra is a beautiful, elliptical meditation on the aftermath of 9/11 in Europe, in particular its effect on three Italian women deeply touched on a personal level by the chaos in Iraq and Afghanistan.
When the husband of Anna (Agnese Nano) leaves her at the beginning of “La Lunga Ombra,” her friends writer Costanza (Eliana Miglio) and TV journalist Giulia (Simonetta Gianfelici) take her to a seaside villa. In her despair, however, Anna is inconsolable, which causes her friends to consider their own lives and the increasingly unstable world in which they live. Their conversations, reveries and individual experiences are punctuated by grainy, distorted images of the destruction of the Twin Towers. Jost’s command of images and pace is so strong that these allusions are remarkably subtle, suggesting how they seep into the collective subconscious.