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By David Finkelstein | February 19, 2004

This video is made from travelogue footage of a trip to India. The footage shows car trips through the countryside, religious rituals, the interior of a fancy museum, a shadow puppet play, and other images from an ancient culture in the modern world. On the soundtrack, the traveler discusses the footage we are looking at with a friend. At times, they discuss how to turn the footage into a finished film. Mixed into the sound at nearly equal volume is a montage of chants, drums, street sounds, and other sounds recorded on the trip.

At one point in his trip, the traveler relates, he met a woman who had a very profound effect on him, but he later lost track of her. He then spent a good deal of time trying to track her down again, apparently without success. He also witnessed a kind of public ritual in which people line up to receive a blessing by having an elephant lay its trunk on their head. (We see this on screen.) He describes the people who have been touched by the elephant as leaving the scene with a feeling of tremendous peace, “as if a big, flexible rubber eraser had erased their brains.”

The visual design of the video is stylish and elegant. Most of the footage is shown in fast motion, but with a slow frame rate. In other words, it conveys a feeling of rushing around, but with a stuttering motion. The sound montage also contains many repeats and stutters, which seem to complement the stuttering images. The footage itself is contained within rectangles of different sizes, which float serenely in and out of the frame, occasionally overlapping each other. The contrast between the floating of the rectangular frames and the rushing motion of the images themselves is highly effective. The spare, minimalist design choices always highlight the footage without overpowering it.

Occasionally, an image of the woman he is seeking is caught and frozen within the rushing motion, and gradually blown up until the pixelization of the image makes it unrecognizable. It’s as if he is picking through his memories, desperately trying to hang on to any details, which might give him a clue about the woman. One feels that although India is a vast country with millions of people, it still might be true that this one person holds a special meaning for him and that he has missed an important opportunity by losing track of her. This film uses a spare and powerful visual language to depict the unease that our memories can cause us, making us long for an elephant’s trunk to come along and bring us peace.

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