This year the Melbourne International Film Festival will change the way audiences look at cinema. Well, the angle we view it from, at least: The Vertical Cinema event features a 90-minute program of 10 experimental short films from Austria, the Netherlands and Japan projected onto a 10-metre cinemascope screen hung vertically in Federation Square's Deakin Edge theatre.
The program is described on the Vertical Cinema website as a “… blend of abstract cinema, structural experiments, found footage remixes, chemical film explorations and live laser action”. MIFF festival director Michelle Carey says audiences should come prepared for an experience that’s a bit more visceral than some of the other films on offer this year.
“The screen is big, the sound is turned up to 11, it’s quite abrasive at times. Not every one of the 10 films has a really loud soundtrack, but it’s pretty intense.”
Since its first screening in 2013, Vertical Cinema has toured the globe, appearing at the International Film Festival Rotterdam and SXSW in Austin, Texas.
“We searched for about 12 months for the right space,” says Carey. “We had to find a place, preferably in the CBD, that had a very high internal ceiling that would allow for a big screen to be built and hoisted up there. We looked at so many different spaces, including a lot of churches, before we finally settled on Deakin Edge in Federation Square.”
Putting a movie screen on its side also presented challenges when it came to figuring out how audiences would interact with the screen. “It was important that you wouldn’t be swivelling your head constantly like an owl trying to take in all the screen. Because they’re abstract experimental works, you can focus on different parts of the screen, but in a weird way your eyes kind of adjust to take in the whole thing at one time. It ends up being a bit like looking at a massive stained-glass window.”
Ironically, while the films themselves are cutting edge, they’re projected in 35-milimetre film rather than digital video – it seems video projectors can’t adapt to being turned on their side. But for Carey, the aim of Vertical Cinema isn’t just to present audiences with a different kind of viewing experience; it’s to bring that viewing experience out of the cinema.
“I’m really interested in showing things in a different environment. Nothing beats comfy seats and a great horizontal screen in a cinema, but I’m interested in doing more of this sort of thing with MIFF – showing films in different environments and seeing how that affects the way we interact with them.
“I think it’s going to be a very different experience,” she says. “People should come into the screenings with a very open mind.”
Vertical Cinema is screening at Deakin Edge, Federation Square on Friday August 14 at 6.30pm and 9pm.
Broadsheet is a proud media partner of the Melbourne International Film Festival.