Shadow Land or Light from the Other Side
Stereoscopic film, 16 mm, 32 min
The very title – Shadow Land or Light from the Other Side – immediately conjures up cinema. In order to bring together the Victorian interest in stereoscopes, phantoms, and illusions, Beloff decided to work with the 16mm Stereo Bolex camera, designed in the early 1950s for people to shoot their home movies in 3-D. This camera is a Parallax Bolex with special lenses; it puts two images on every 16 mm frame, side by side. One projects the film in a regular projector with a special lens that comes with the kit. It overlays the two images, and the viewer wears glasses so as to see a very fragile 3-dimensional image. Because of the technology of the Stereo Bolex projection lens, one has to use a silver screen. The image itself has a vertical format, like portrait view, and viewers see a spectral black and white 3D image that is very different from the moving images we are used to. With Shadow Land, Beloff wanted to find a way to de-familiarize cinema, to make the present day audience feel like they were seeing film for the first time. Though the camera she chose to realize Shadow Land is completely based in the 1950s and not in a pre-cinema world, it conjures up a time prior to the invention of cinema. As Beloff pointed out, she shot the film in a stereoscopic format to suggest a different direction that cinema might have taken had it been established in the 1880s. What she wishes to convey is a “fragile, spectral, what if… a moment in time when the moving image was on the brink of existence in a form not yet standardized” (http://www.zoebeloff.com).
At the time when Beloff realized Shadow Land she was reading a lot about nineteenth century Victorian spiritualism and the idea – whether in reality or in people’s imagination – of being able to conjure up full-body apparitions. Beloff`s film is based on the autobiography of a materializing medium called Elizabeth d’Espérance. Elizabeth wrote her story in 1897, and titled it Shadow Land or Light from the Other Side. In Beloff’s film, realized with actors, we discover a lonely little girl who can conjure imaginary friends that appear, to her, completely real. This remarkable ability causes her much suffering, for upon reaching adolescence, she is diagnosed as mad on account of seeing people who are not there. Only later does she find a way to cultivate her gifts within the spiritualist movement. (Ju.Ju.Li.)
Zoe Beloff, born 1958 in Edinburgh, Scotland, lives and works in New York.
Karen Beckman, “Impossible Spaces and Philosophical Toys: An Interview with Zoe Beloff,” Grey Room, no. 22 (Winter 2005), pp. 68–85.
Heather Hendershot, “Of Ghosts and Machines: An Interview with Zoe Beloff,” Cinema Journal, vol. 45, no. 3 (Spring 2006), pp. 130–140.
Jussi Parikka, “‘With Each Project I Find Myself Reimagining What Cinema Might Be’”: An Interview with Zoe Beloff (2011), http://www.electronicbookreview.com/thread/imagenarrative/numerous.