The Man Who Folded Himself is a short digital video by Johann Rashid. Divided into 4 sections, it follows a young man (Boki) who 'journeys' into 4 interlinked dimensions: a library, a real hedge maze, a fake hedge maze, and the Australian bush. In the library he encounters a book which he reads, allowing him to be 'transported' into the hedge maze realm where he observes the ongoings of a group of Serbian prisoners seemingly interred in its leafy purgatory. He then imagines himself in the hedge maze where he encounters a greyhound dog who leads him out of the hedge maze into the 'outside world'. There he trudges towards a bonfire in the distance where a pile of books are being burnt. He throws the book he has been carrying - the same one he was originally reading in the library - into the burning fire. Maybe now he lives forever either in the sumptuous outdoor bush or within his own trapped imagination, locked down from reading the book ...
The Man Who Folded Himself is an obtuse, cryptic film, working solely to its own undisclosed inner logic. Its narrative is not symbolic, but more formed like a puzzle which both the protagonist and the viewer are engaged in solving. No solution or explanation is delivered in the film's denouement, but in the detached manner employed by Nouveau Roman film's like Alan Resnais and Alain Robbe-Grillet's Last Year In Marienbad the story unfolds as a floating enigma with moebius threads of character and action.
The Man Who Folded Himself was completed as part of the Tyger! Tyger! series of collaborative projects curated by Philippa Murray at Westspace, Melbourne in 2012. Philip Brophy contacted 3 filmmakers to collaborate with by providing a film score for their work prior to the films being either shot or edited. Philip worked exclusively by reading the script and engaging in detailed conversation with the writer/directors. The other films in this series are Cassandra Tytler's Messed Up Pop Song and Emile Zile's Jack.
Script, direction & editing - Johann Rashid
Producer - Derry Sheehan
DOP - David Rusanow
Music composition, all instruments, sound design & 5.1 mix - Philip Brophy
Premiered at TYGER! TYGER! - curated by Philippa Murray, Westspace Gallery, Melbourne
Johann developed The Man Who Folded Himself over a lengthy period of impressionistic script annotation. Using image boards, conceptual notes, formal references to photos and films, and models of early interactive story-telling, he gradually assembled his 3-act triple-layered stories-within-stories. The title aptly refers to not only how the central character 'folds' himself through these 3 sections/dimensions/realities, but also how the story itself is folded like a paper puzzle. Over this period, Johann and Philip had many discussions about what kind of story was resulting from this process. Johann was keen to explore ways in which musical instrumentation could merge 'real' sounding instruments with 'unreal' sounding instrument ions, with particular reference to woodwind instruments contrasting with analogue synthesizers. This encapsulated well the way Johann was designing his film to move from the real location of an old library, to an actual hedge maze, to a constructed hedge maze placed in the outdoor bush to the bush itself.
Philip particularly queried Johann on what he thought his main character was thinking and feeling as he went through these dimensional shifts, so as to work out how to proceed with a score. From these discussions, Philip devised a conceptual framework: to compose 3 themes - for (i) the library; (ii) the hedge maze Boki is reading about, and (iii) the prop maze through which Boki walks, and the outside world he encounters when he leaves the prop maze. Philip then reworked the instrumentation of each theme to represent a character inhabiting and traversing that space. Once this conceptual framework was determined, Philip then composed the 3 themes in 3 days. The brevity of time in producing these themes - as with all of Philip's scores - is counterweighted by considerable pre-production periods of discussion, analysis and conceptualisation of the dramaturgy of the story and the psychological implications it has for characterization.
The 3 themes and their 3 'deconstructed variations' for The Man Who Folded Himself were composed while Philip was in Paris without him having seen the film. They were then uploaded to Johann, who worked on his edit by playing with placing the 4 themes as he was editing. When Philip returned, he met with Johann and then reconstructed and re-performed the 3 themes to fit the timing and placement Johann had accorded them in his edit.
The 1st theme relates to the library. It uses a rigid medical drum-machine fed through a cheap amplifier. Rhythmic organ clusters, a walking synth bass, swirling analogue synths form a Tetris-like grid pattern based around the form of library levels, corridors, shelves and sections. The 'unreal' instrumentation was chosen to contrast with the 'real' environment of the library's old world appearance. The 'deconstructed variation' takes the organ and processes it through additional vocoder, fuzz and delay chains. The result is a strange 'echo' of the main theme, but here distilled and elongated.
The 2nd theme employs dual acoustic guitars (steel and nylon), fuzz guitars, a mid-range analogue synth bass, distorted clavier, and pounding reverberant taiko-style drums. This is for the actual hedge maze, wherein we see a group of Serbian prisoners ruminating on their past, their future, and their general sense of regret with their lives. (This is the 'story' that Boki is reading when he starts in the library.) This theme was quite intuitively composed, in an attempt to not directly describe the prisoners or their situation, but to generate a general sense of people trapped and wandering in a daze in a maze. The 'deconstructed variation' is a series of tuned atonal sheets derived from the harmonies and textures of the distorted guitars and clavier.
The 3rd theme is tied to Boki entering the hedge maze world. This is when the actual hedge maze is replaced with a fake/prop one, filmed with the protagonist wandering around the maze. This theme has the most traditional arrangement: sumptuous strings (sampled), double bass, electric piano, reverberant booms and clicks, and hammered zither. As this is Boki fully by immersing himself believably into the realm he is reading about, the theme is the most grandiose and sensational. The 'deconstructed variation' is based around a chordal sequence performed on a highly echoed and filtered processing of the hammered zither. This represents Boki's sense of calm wonder as he moves through his space and eventually outside into the real world where he burns his book.
The final film is subtitled in English. Atmospheres are mixed quadraphonically back in Melbourne at Gelatin; dialogue and ADR is predominantly in the centre speaker with occasional spread across the full left field. The score is mixed in quadraphonic audio using methods similar to those employed on Messed Up Pop Song.