France, Lebanon, Les Films de l'Astrophore, 1996, DCP, 75 minutes
Scriptwriter, director, cameraman, sound director, and editor: Alain Cavalier
In 1993, Alain Cavalier shot his last work on film (“Libera me”). The desire to completely get rid of the shackles of industrial filmmaking led him to transition to video technology. Since that time, he has been shooting exclusively with hand-held camcorders, the first of which was Sony Video Hi8. This transition coincided with an important event in Cavalier's personal life. After several years of loneliness and grief over his deceased wife, he fell in love again. Film producer Françoise Widhoff became the object of the director's passion, and together they would subsequently make a number of films. Three months after they met, he began aimlessly documenting their life together, having no plan for a new film in his head, no budget, and no crew, guided only by a feeling of deep happiness. A year later, these fragments of reality torn from life would form the basis of Cavalier’s second (after "This Answering Service Takes No Messages") self-portrait, “The Encounter”. We will see neither the author himself nor his new love in the shot. An intimate chronicle of the life of lovers is told through their objects, parts of their bodies, places that they often visit. The way of organizing all these elements is similar to what André Bazin called “vertical” editing - each image here corresponds not to what precedes or follows it, but to what is said about it.
In "The Encounter", the offscreen speech of the characters is like a love poem filled with symbols, the meaning of which is not always revealed to the reader. Every little detail and every single shot have a certain semantic meaning, their very presence testifies to a strong feeling. Through the demonstration of subtle connections valuable to two people only, Cavalier managed to achieve a unique level of intimacy in conversation with the viewer, which became his hallmark. If "This Answering Service Takes No Messages" was made at the time of the transformation of his directorial method, from the traditional to the experimental, then "The Encounter" was the first work of Cavalier the "amateur". “I’m like a laborer who depends on the evolution of his tool. Only if his tool is transformed, his thinking becomes transformed too”, said the author of the film (Sarmiento Hinojosa, J. On Hi-8/Digital and the Intimate: The Film Diaries of Alain Cavalier // Desistfilm [online film journal]. 2014. - URL: https://desistfilm.com/on-analoguedigital-and-the-intimate-the-film-diaries-of-alain-cavalier/).
The home video aesthetics, as well as the metaphysics of objects, and offscreen voice formed the basis of Alain Cavalier’s diary style, to which he has remained faithful to this day.
The director meets a woman and seeks to capture his feelings, filming the moments of the first year of their life together. The video camera rarely moves, people rarely appear in the shot, the viewer is presented with ordinary objects and places on the screen. But gentle offscreen voices convey the deep meaning these simple images have for lovers.