It’s more common than you might think, as film fans will watch and re-watch their favourite movies. But what about re-watching a specific scene from a film? For most of us a single moment in isolation might never get a second look outside the whole. For film and theatre creator Daniel Fish though, the final scene from the 2004 film Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is the subject of his work Eternal, set to play the 2016 International PuSh Performing Arts Festival.
Combining the unbroken time of theatre and the intimacy of the cinematic close-up, actors Christina Rouner and Thomas Jay Ryan perform the final scene from the Michel Gondry film on a continuous recorded video loop for two hours.
“The three of us had worked together on a theatre piece based on a Nicholas Ray film in 2011, and were looking for another project to do together,” says Fish. “We had originally thought we might do an evening of last scenes from films, but when we hit upon [Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind] something told me to do it again.”
From there his two actors learned their lines and the trio went into the studio to record the scene multiple times in one continuous take, without rehearsal.
“We really stuck to that formal and conceptual choice; I would say action, and we would not stop,” says Fish. “Fortunately it turned out quite well. I’m not sure what we would have done if it hadn’t.”
Fish believes that a big part of how well the finished product turned out was due to their history together.
“Because we had done another piece together there was a trust between us,” he says. “All they do in the piece is unplanned and intuitive. There is a great chemistry between them, and I don’t think it could have happened the same way with actors that hadn’t worked together before.”
Without an answer as to why this particular scene from Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind resonated, Fish does say he has always been drawn to final scenes in film.
“Not that I find other parts of films boring, but there are so many great last scenes in films like Manhattan, La Volce Vita, and of course Eternal,” he says.
Even as the piece repeats the same scene over its two hours, Fish says that while what is being show on screen cannot change, the audience does have an affect on each performance.
“I come from the theatre, and when you do a play it is different every night, and while it is exciting it can also be frustrating because it is not always perfect,” he says. “I thought by filming it, it would be final. What surprised me though was how the piece changes because of the energy of the audience, and how they react to it.”
Eternal plays at the Western Front (303 East 8th Ave, Vancouver) February 2-8. Visit https://pushfestival.ca for tickets and information.