Inarritu, A. G. Short film 11’09”01
from the Anthology film 11’09”01, 2002
Short film by the maker of Babel. His response to the trauma of watching September 11 happen on TV: horror revealed through sound, blackness and glimpses. Listen to the layers and development of the soundtrack. Does it work – does it capture the extremity of the event?
The piece starts with different voices. I would assume that it is different layers put on top of each other, but I won’t exclude the possibility of it being a gathering of people praying or talking at the same time. Whatever the technique is, it conveys chaos and confusing. I can’t understand the language, which makes it even harder to understand the purpose of it. After a while we hear a thud, a deep but soft, almost like a bass drum. There are long breaks between each thud, and the voices keep going while music slowly fades in.
The next part of the film is introduced by electronic sound, voices from radio and television becomes a new layer. The voices suddenly stops, and we hear the sound of a plane taking off/flying past. Then comes the crash. The voices we hear now is from the scene, recorded while it happened, shouting and talking in english. Chaos and confusion. More layers are added of news reports, sirens, screams. We are told about what the piece is about (for those who has been living under a rock for the last 11 years) through news reports, and after a while we hear reports also in different languages.
When the “thud’s” come, fast flashes of footage appears. We see people jumping from the towers, while the sound layers are accompanied with a new one that explains what is happening (news report or someone who was there).
The music is rising in intensity, while we hear screams and thunder from the tower collapsing. More sirens, honking, screaming.
A voice, I think over radio or tv, is talking about how they are going to get the people who did it back. He says he wants to get the fathers, mothers, children, everyone. On top of this a layer of someone talking in a foreign language, we hear “Allah” pronounced several times. War of words? Music is again appearing, fading in, it sounds like screeching of train brakes.
Then, complete silence. We’ve only seen small parts of footage so far, but we’ve had a summary of the event only by the use of sound. We understand the chaos, the panic, the despair, just from what we’ve heard so far. Now we see the footage, but without any things. The World Trade Centre collapses.
The chanting voices we heard in the start reappear (it might be other voices, but it sounds similar). Different layers of people talking in foreign language(s), while somber cello/violin music fades in. The dark screen slowly fades into a light, white background, which almost could resemble the smoke and ashes from when the tower collapsed. The voices are now even inaudible.
Then a text in arabic comes up, and after a while the text comes up in english.
“Does God’s light guide us or blind us?”
I really liked this short film. It is so powerful, and almost frightening to watch/listen. The chaos is conveyed really well by the way he has used different layers on top of each other. There are so many sounds going on at the same time; we don’t know where to focus our attention, and because we can’t see what is happening we are really dependent on what we are hearing. This is probably the intention of the filmmaker; to convey the feeling of being confused and uncertain of where to focus our attention when a million things are happening around us.