Three unnamed men, a carpenter, a musician and a photographer, work in isolation in various locations across Greece and its islands. They go about their business with great care, and with a sense of purpose, indeed with a sense of devotion. They seem to have a lot of time at their disposal, which they make the most of.
A simple opening statement has prepared us for what to expect – this will be a film with neither speech nor commentary. Operating outside the constraints of time and words the film’s protagonists are free, the title suggests, as are we in the opportunity we are afforded to observe and listen.
The photographer walks through the countryside recording the minutae of things. In microscopic detail we see pollen spray from a lily, gossamer at dawn, insects inspecting flowers, or a dead log floating on stagnant water. Like a curious scientist, he seeks the reason for everything, from each minute particle that forms the common moth, observed in a studio-cum-lab, to the impossible vastness of the Milky Way, shot in time lapse.
The carpenter is equally serious, and equally solitary. He prepares and cuts wood in his island studio, and then determines what to do with it. So he decides on a single-stem table, simple but elegant, which he creates with devotion, taking care to observe and contemplate each stage.
The musician records everything he hears, creating a symphony of found sound, whether the wind whispering through reeds or the crackle of a sponge across rough wood. He plays an organ that sounds like an accordion and allows a ticking clock to be his metronome. His simple but highly effective recording device looks like something out of the analogue age, designed by an enthusiastic dad. A flat box with microphone poking out. His music and sounds connect all the film’s sequences.
“My intention was to explore how we watch the film, without speech, without words, what we hear beyond words,” explains director Menios Carayannis. “I think there is a whole deeply hidden world which is next to us and speech sometimes blocks us from hearing it, because we all the time seek to interpret and explain while there are things are beyond verbal expression.”
“There is a hidden expression in things, which arises from details,” he continues, adding that the achievements of his protagonists are like “a labour of love.”
There was little by way of planning, the director points out of his film, and the objects, observations and sounds that we encounter were devised and created in situ during the period of shooting. “The table, like the music, was created there. There was no plan. That is the beautiful thing about documentary. You can create things without them being programmed, and a surprise comes.”
Of course, there is a fourth creative force at work, the director himself, who also observes assiduously, all the time applying high levels of commitment to his creative approach and processes.
“It is what connects us four,” Carayannis agrees. “We are devoted to that ideal and are cut off from the rest of the world as we are doing it. That’s a thing that also fascinated me, how to be able to cut yourself off and exist only for that and not anything else. Nothing can interrupt you. You don’t hear anything else, you don’t see anything else. It’s a very focussed thing.”