The branches from a tree move smoothly on the waves of a breeze. A psychedelic sitar and banjo start to play. While the music gathers its pace, the camera moves in extreme close up over the striped pattern of the clothing of the listener. The camera explores the visual patterns of the clothing, the neck and later on the hair. The viewer becomes piece by piece familiar with the character. At the height of the ears we notice the person is a young woman. She is listening to a piece by American musician Hala Strana. Her face makes it clear that this moment is all about contemplation and sensorial joy. This is Trance nr. 3.
Trance is the name of a series of 10 experimental documentaries made by Chilean filmmaker José Luis Torres Leiva. In each chapter he shows someone’s experience listenening to a song for the first time in its life. He defines his work as a very modest gesture intended to archive the music I admire and the faces of people that surround me and that I care for. For Torres Leiva the experience of recording these fragments of pure reality represents a cinematic act itself, independent of its later existence for public screening.
Torres Leiva’s films are often observational in nature and very much about experience. They are letting things happen without any intervention shown from an authorial point of view and based on personal feelings. In Trance 3 for example, he decides to blends his own experience of the ‘first time’ moment with the experience of the girl listening to the song. Slowly we cross over from his experience towards the experience of the character; we get to see more from his or her face and expressions while listening to the song. In this series Leiva shows how different viewers experience listening to a song for the first time in a different way. Each film captures a unique moment and experience and becomes therefore a unique and un-repeatable piece in itself. The whole series together shows a group of people like society, and lets the viewer get along in their unique moment and experience.
Torres Leiva is mostly showing his films and projects within new media like the web. Looking at the series of Trance, this film is more suitable within this medium than an old medium like theaters. An online surfer can choose the song and the film he or she would like to experience. The web is connecting people’s personal experiences and this project offers online surfers to share this personal music experience.
My favorite Torres Leiva film is Women Workers Leaving the Factory, a fictional short film that tells the story of a group of female factory employees who decide to go on a holiday together. The characters hardly speak at all; the story is mostly told by very delicate observations of the characters’ actions. This films reveals Torres Leiva’s deep fascination for film history and photography. Already the title is an ode to one of the first films made by the Lumière brothers.
Check also his list of favorites at youtube, with quite interesting films from all times, most of them very unknown. Likewise you can check his blog on photography, one of the most surprising and comprehensive collections of authorial photography I’ve ever seen available on the Web.