In honour of International Woman’s Day, Numéro Cinq presents Erika Janunger’s Weightless, a short film about women in rooms they make their own. The film features two women, one in a bedroom, another in a living room, each defying gravity. The technical trick is basic, the camera tilted and the room set decorated so as to create the optical illusion that the women are climbing the walls, “weightless” with perhaps longing, or distraction, or with emotion that exceeds the rooms they rise up in.
Films with such visual tricks can rely too heavily on the device, or lack substance to do anything evocative with the trick. But here the juxtaposition of the two women, linked by their weightlessness, connected through gestures and, towards the end of the film, by the play with lighting, alludes to a narrative possibility, that they are rising in rooms for one another, or that they are connected in their struggle for and against weightlessness.
And each of the rooms seems to play further with a Virginia Woolfian exploration of room and identity, the one woman and her library of books lifting off and flinging to the wall, the other pressed against a watery, mirroring surface. On the one hand, reading, on the other identity, and together, through the juxtaposition of the two women and their two rooms, the link created between them. Reading and seeing the self are linked.
Narratively, Janunger explores weightlessness through the two women and their rooms first subtly and then more dramatically with the crescendo of the piece. From the moment the women first show signs of lifting off, the film creates a desire for them to ascend, to rise up, to gain flight. That they don’t, that they remain surprisingly earthbound, flavours the piece bittersweet, more about lost potential than catharsis. And the crescendo, then, as a complement of tensions, rising, but doomed to gravity.
And the bouquet of lights that frames the film, a fistful pressed against a wall, resists interpretation. These clusters are cut together with images of a singular light then lights yearning right but restrained left, swinging between floor and ceiling.
These two images of light, pressed up against the wall, unbearably close, and then unable to reach, tantalus held in mid air, underscore the two women’s struggles with and against gravity throughout the film. From beginning to end They cannot leave their separate rooms, or escape this unresolvable tension of collision and the unreachable.
– R.W Gray