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Thursday, December 29, 2011

Kultuurikatel - The place where Andrei Tarkovsky shot STALKER

If you have read my epic previous post about the 60 SECONDS OF SOLITUDE IN YEAR ZERO screening held on the 22nd of December, I don't blame you if you've thought that my trip in Estonia climaxed during its first day.

I thought the same too as I left the Port of Tallinn on a boat, heading towards the venue of the closing ceremony. That was my last public screening of 2011, ending a very busy year when I had travelled around the film festival circuit almost every month. I would just kick back and relax, recharge my energies. I had a few more days in Tallinn, I expected to spend them in solitude since I was staying around longer than the other invited guests (I was scheduled to fly back to Tokyo on Christmas day). Explore Tallinn, soak in the festive atmosphere, I don't really celebrate Christmas, but the excitement of being half a world away would probably dampen the inevitable melancholy feeling that often plague my soul.

But then, as usual, life is full of little surprises. I then found out that the after-party was to be held in a place called Kultuurikatel. The exact place where Andrei Tarkovsky shot STALKER.

"What? STALKER was shot in Tallinn?" I spluttered in barely contained excitement when this little piece of trivia was conveyed to me.

Some of you who actually knew me as a filmmaker (... and not arrived at this blog looking for Dawn Yang pictures or 10 Things To Do After A Break-Up) might know that I'm a huge Tarkovsky fan. I quote Tarkovsky when I wanted to lament about being an artist in an ill-designed world, about how art would be useless in a perfect world. I ask my cinematographers to give me 'Tarkovskian shots' during film shoots, I shoo the cast and crew away the night before a shoot to watch a Tarkovsky film for inspiration.

I discovered Tarkovsky relatively late, it was only 2 years ago. The first Tarkovsky film I've ever seen was STALKER. And like first love, your first Tarkovsky film is hard to forget, especially when it leads you to the rest of his awesome filmography. This fan video of STALKER might give you a little idea what the film is like.

It was a life-altering experience for me. The poetic visuals, the dream-like languid pacing, the bravura shots, it was transcendent cinema at its finest. The Kultuurikatel is an abandoned power plant dating back from the 19th century and had recently been converted into a place for cultural events. In fact. earlier this year in August, a STALKER festival was held for artists to pay homage to Tarkovsky's film, either through films, visual arts or music.

But being so tired that night after the screening, I opted to skip the after party. I wanted to see the place in its full glory during the day anyway.

And so, the next day, 23rd of December, I went to the Kultuurikatel for my Tarkovsky pilgrimage.

Kulturikatel sign

The imposing structure loomed over me.


Kulturikatel 2

Kulturikatel 3

Strangely beautiful because of its decaying, rustic quality.

It was unfortunate that I couldn't really get into the building during the day.

Nearby was a row of houses that seemed abandoned as well.

Row of houses next to Kulturikatel

I continued observing Kultuurikatel, knowing that I had taken enough photos (mediocre ones, unfortunately) to tell people about.

Kulturikatel 4

Where does this lead to???

Kulturikatel means Culture Oven

I couldn't help but suddenly remember an afternoon in May 2009, when I explored numerous ruins ("Haikyo" in Japanese) at Sagamiko, I was intrigued by the ruins of Sun Hill Hotel.

A few months after that, I returned to the Sun Hills Hotel ruins again. This time, it was for recceing. I was preparing to shoot my short, EXHALATION.

I did end up using that location. I shot EXHALATION on the 28th, 29th and 30th of December, 2009.

Shooting a scene in an abandoned building

[Exhalation] Sayuri (Tomoe Shinohara) contemplates as Naoko (Kiki Sugino) is asleep

In a discussion with my main actresses and producer

[Exhalation] Naoko (Kiki Sugino) and Sayuri (Tomoe Shinohara) brooding

I was inspired then, to look for building ruins, mostly because I had seen STALKER (and then THE MIRROR).

As I've mentioned earlier in this post, this year, I had travelled to quite a number of film festivals, mostly because of EXHALATION's festival run (started in Dubai Film Fest 2010 before proceeding to Rotterdam, Jeonju, Shanghai, Hong Kong InDpanda Short and finally, Tokyo).

It's fitting that I managed to end the year visiting the very place which sparked my imagination and formed the core of my work that led to my travels.

It is December 29th, 2011 as I am writing this.

The scenes set within the ruins for EXHALATION was shot in December 29th, 2009.

Do you believe in synchronicity?