By Natalie Wood.
In an introspective diary entry format, Theo Taylor captures both the absurdity and sameness of everyday life during COVID-19 in his gentle documentary film of lockdown in Berlin.
He invites us to the supermarket masquerade ball and his late-night, and daylight YouTube spirals. We watch on as he takes out the bins, moisturises his hands and runs out of toilet paper. We watch these events and have a shared understanding that they hold newly different meanings. By documenting and therefore historicising this moment of isolation that we are largely (spatially) experiencing alone, he allows us a comforting insight into the wider reality, that this too is a collectively lived experience. Knowing that we are not the only ones to cut our own hair in the mirror or bake our own bread when the flour finally came back on the shelves.
Taylor explains his filming motivations as a curiosity for habitus, "I’m interested in the small details of people’s lives; the different ways people brush their teeth, make the bed, or hold a knife and fork. I see these things as very illuminating of the breadth of human experience, so I wanted to offer up my own for examination."
With this sincerity, the mood feels intimate in an alienating period. We peak into Taylor’s bedroom through the window panes in which he is also looking out. In a Brechtian like gaze we view half a subject, head-less or partial through door frames, reflections and silence. But this subject shows himself shaving, meditating, eating and even on the toilet. This contrast of familiar strange can also be seen in narrative editing contributing to a multiple sense of time and self. Taylor comments on his filming process by explaining, "I didn’t want to have the fact of the camera motivate my actions, so I would just always have the camera ready to go for when I thought something was worthy of capturing. Because of this I felt my perception in everyday life shift slightly. I felt more present and engaged in everyday life, much like the times when I was keeping a written diary. Increasingly throughout the project, I saw the world in more visual terms, which was nice."
The sense of time, intentional or not, is linear but multiple. There is the gentle evolution of seasonal time as snow turns to blossom. This is then juxtaposed with the choppy cutting of the date between frames interrupting a seemingly peaceful existence with structure. The evolution of potted plants, again linear but inconclusive is another alternate sense of time. We watch them get potted and re-potted and again after some advice from mum. Noticing that one has the time not just to plant something but to make mistakes and re-plant it feels humbling. Theo Taylor commented on his temporal experience, "It has definitely made me realise how unnecessarily frantic my life before was. I would like to keep some of the time and space I am afforded now if/when things get started again." We are reminded that our time doesn’t have to be hyper-productive, linear or unilateral. It can also be misspent, or just spent or not ‘spent’ at all. Watching the sunlight travel across your room at odd hours doesn’t have to contribute or hold meaning and it doesn’t have to teach us a single thing.