You have a problem. You’re bursting with desire to make a film but you have limited resources and it’s the 1980s. No DSLR cameras, no digital, no miniDV, hell even VHS cams are hard to find and expensive. All you’ve got is a bolex, cheap black & white film, no audio equipment, and a small sum of cash. This was the position Cinqué Lee was in when he made Window on Your Present.
His solution? Shoot everything as if you have audio and have an actress narrate most of the film with flowery words; do a small amount of foley and get your famous musician dad to do the minimal score. I have to admit I love micro budget cinema and I appreciate folks who find creative ways to get around what they don’t have. Making your flaws and shortcomings part of the story and style takes talent and foresight and this film commands respect for having just that. Set in a war torn or post-apocalyptic world (it’s hard to tell, everything looks destroyed and withered but there’s trains and boats operating…) a young woman finds a man just as aimless and hopeless as her, trying to make sense of a life that has become senseless.
Jim Jarmusch has quotes all over the DVD box for this film and it’s very appropriate. Fans of his minimal, stark style would likely dig this introspective poetic film. The black and white photography is beautiful in an urban decay kind of way, which I have quite an affinity for. The character’s steampunk garb also helps create a strong visual style. The score is used sparingly and when we hear it, it sounds like the most beautiful music ever performed because of its sparse use. A deep film, Window on Your Present certainly isn’t for everyone. It’s intellectual in a nihilistic sort of way and certainly asks us why we are living. What for? Who for? It provides little answers. The film’s goal seems to be to provoke thought and discussion rather than to entertain with explosions and sex. It’s a challenging film, and I had to clear out my mental cobwebs to engage with it. So if films like Down By Law and Le Jetee are your thing, Window On Your Present needs to be on your radar.