Lujain Ibrahim 19 August 2018

The Pursuit of Hope and Knowledge


Continuing in the theme of motherhood and science, the anthropology series Mosaic once again brings us a captivating new chapter: The Fortress.The Fortress is a short experimental film directed by Miryam Charles about a recently deceased young girl who finds a way to communicate with her mother leading her parents to embark on journey to Haiti with a mad scientist. By experimenting with an assembly of visuals, colors, and sounds, Miryam Charles brings to life a very open and vulnerable story of a broken, yet persistent, family.

One of the most notable aspects of this film is the inclusion of the raw audio of the clips; it is almost impossible to ignore the loud ambient sound of wind and other things like camera movements and adjustments that are present in many of the scenes, including scenes with added voiceovers. In fact, some scenes include 3 layers of audio, with all 3 of diegetic sounds, a voiceover, and background music. However, it is not always clear whether this background noise has been added to the clips in post-production or whether it has an on-screen source. The audio of this film is full of gems from barely audible whispers to very loud unidentified sounds, making it incredibly refreshing and independently capable of conveying its own emotional story. 

The visuals that complement this auditory journey are equally fascinating with their unsaturated colors and “old film” effect. The unsaturated and often tinted clips, along with their grainy texture at times, create a relaxing and embracing feel to the film from the beginning to the end. However, as the clips are meant to look and feel older, many of them are sped up making the shakiness of the camera much more profound and noticeable and adding a sense of anxiety that contrasts the effect of the colors. In addition to that, the film makes use of superimposition in multiple scenes concealing parts of the visuals, thus holding back details of the story, yet at the same time forcing us to scrutinize the parts that are clear in relation to the superimposed visuals. Even though, many moments in the film feel very vulnerable, a lot of information is actually buried and camouflaged using these visual techniques thus requiring us to be constantly constructing and guessing many elements of the narrative. 

The Fortress is a story of hope, extraordinary attachment, and pursuit of knowledge. Miryam Charles, however, does not exclusively craft a story, but rather exclusively crafts an experience with sufficient room for viewers to contemplate, inspect, and reflect on the numerous clues scattered in the film to generate their own speculations of the vague components of the story. The Fortress does an incredible job of having a smooth progression with a gripping environment that has you watching and listening closely over and over again to fill in the blanks.

About the author

Lujain is an undergraduate student studying computer engineering at New York University Abu Dhabi who is particularly invested in engineering applications in the world of biotechnology and biomedicine. She is also interested in exploring science and technology in film as well as the cultural and political significance of cinema

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