By David Finkelstein | March 20, 2010

In “Here and There,” a personal, poetic, and expressive film by Roger Deutsch, we see images of gravestones and farmhouses, and the endless flatness of the Great Plains. Inside an airplane, the passenger safety video says to “extinguish all cigarettes,” placing the footage sometime in the past. Shots from boats speeding through various harbors and waterways continue the theme of travel, to the sound of an impassioned baritone on a scratchy 78 rpm record. We go from New York Harbor to Niagara. Then, we are inside a train, somewhere in Europe. An extended sequence shot obliquely through the train’s window emphasizes three worlds: the faces of passengers reflected on the glass, the waviness of the glass itself, and the landscape passing outside. (As in the print by Escher.) Glassy, suspenseful music plays. A sequence suffused with golden light shows old, beautiful, decaying statues, to the majestic sounds of a solo trumpet and the wind. The sound of water, mixed with an eerie, dissonant version of “Silent Night,” plays, appropriately, with shaky shots which could be of a partially destroyed church. The final shot is of people dancing in a night club, the music incongruously mixed with a Bob Dylan song.

In this highly personal, diary film, Deutsch conveys an abstracted narrative of a personal journey, over a long period of time, from provincial American beginnings, to a Europe with an older and more complicated cultural history. What really makes this film hang together, however, is not the particulars of the story which are only hinted at, but the care with which individual shots are selected, sequenced, and juxtaposed, which create sequences which are evocative and poetic, speaking of many kinds of experiences of travel. The sound-score, with its well-crafted blend of natural sounds, ambient sounds, and music, is likewise always expressive and evocative. Deutsch has taken very personal material and, through his artistic skill, created a film poem about the experience of traveling to new places which will speak to many people.

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