Apic­u­la Enigma

35mm film
26 minutes

This film was shot in Austria in the Koshuta mountains of southern Carinthia. This wild life documentary is of another kind. It recorded a long time spent in the presence of the bees, moments when science turns into science fiction, a point at which the most factual events become fantastical. It was made in the light of references such as Maurice Maeterlinck's book "La vie des abeilles" (1910) and J.V Uexkull’s book "Mondes animaux et monde humain" (1934).

As the film starts one can hear a whisper that says: « Nature doesn’t tell stories » which sets the film against the conventions of wild life films. These conventions like anthropomorphism, staged actions, voyeurism or new filming techniques that « break down the barriers between a subject and the audience » have been carefully avoided for this film. Avoiding these raised a problem of representation. The use of slow-motion and macrophotography, usually assisting the creation of wild life documentaries were here necessary to make images of the bees as their movements are almost imperceptible to our eyes. Wild life documentaries world uses high frame rate in order to slow down their movements: 50, 72, 100 or even 300 frames per seconds images makes the viewer see each flap of their wings, shows what one’s eyes can't see.

On set with Attila Boa, the director of photography, we had long conversation to find out what should be an acceptable limit of visibility and so the minimum increase of frame rate we should use to unable our viewer to see the bees. We decided to use 36 fps which is the smallest. This frame rate would make their movements perceived but not entirely seen.

We also discussed how big should a bee appear on image. How far should the camera be from a bee? How close should we bring the eye of the viewer and in consequence what lenses should we use? We decided that anything close and small should be similar to a flaneur's normal perception, that the distance to film the bees should be 1m20.

This film is an attempt to approach the “point de passage” which is the limit of the scope of representation as we know it, the point at which the animal realm begins. This interspace or passage way defines the limit of what cinema has sets itself to be: an image created on the basis of the Renaissance perspective in order to fabricate an arbitrary image of the world. Measuring the distance to the bees is shown on film to embody this very idea.

It recorded the factual truth of what happened on set. The beehive and the colony, the collection of pollen and honey, and the bees that swarmed out of the beehive to the nearest tree and then swarmed out again to disappear into the forest. Staying close to the factual truth included filming the crew and the process of making images. Its focus was to film the space in between the crew and the bees, the "being in the presence" of the bees as well as “the interstice” between our world and theirs. If for Serge Daney « Cinema teaches me to touch with my gaze the distance at which the other begins » then this film is a way to find the distance at which the enigma of the animal world lies.

Location: Carinthia, Austria, June 2013
Director of photography: Attila Boa
Camera: 35mm
Lenses: 11 and 75 mm Prime Zeiss
First assistant: Eva Mittermüller
Beekeeper: Peter Hopfgartner
Sound recording: Peter Roesner
Sound editing: Henning Knoepfel
Image editing: Martina Moor
Produced by: NoguerasBanchard, Spain, Fortes D’Aloia Gabriel