Claire Atherton Masterclass




Claire Atherton Masterclass

Editing: A Composition


Multifaceted editor and visual artist Claire Atherton delivered a masterclass at Pavlos Zannas, on Wednesday November 10, unravelling her journey in cinema and her thirty-year collaboration with the unforgettable Belgian pioneer of cinema, Chantal Akerman.

Orestis Andreadakis, artistic director of the Festival, warmly welcomed Claire Atherton and addressed a greeting to the audience, especially the students of the film school, who filled every corner of Pavlos Zannas Theatre.


Mrs. Atherton said at first that the editing of each film is a new journey and a new discovery. "I never know where I'm going to go, and I don't need to know. And this is a truth not only for cinema but for everyday life and the acceptance that everything that counts in human life is hidden in its mysterious movements" she said. She also questioned the word masterclass, in the sense that there are no experts, and if there are any they are the ones who constantly question themselves and are open to find out new things.


"The need for security is constantly growing and focuses precisely on our need for control of everything – a control that dictates us to decide about our life before we live it, and about our film before we make it," she commented. "However," she continued, "we have to accept that there are things we can't control."


She went on to mention that after the completion of a film, she is overwhelmed by feelings of insecurity. "I feel like I didn't do as much as I could. And I am always surprised at the result. I don't understand how and why I did this particular editing. When I'm editing, I try to stop the voices in my head telling me that I didn't do something right. All these dangerous voices, in the end, take us away from what we have inside us. However, we really need their confirmation – for without them, it would be like jumping into the void, and it's so scary", she said.


Claire Atherton also believes that editing takes place outside the room. "It's important to get to know the cast of the film, to share the same feelings with them, to be able to talk with them. Our language of communication is not a language of commands, a language of categorisation and definitions – it is about an intuitive language, a language creating ambient and allowing new ideas to be born," she said.


She then commented on the views on some dipoles, "thought and intuition", or "narrative and contemplative films". "All these categorizations don't mean anything to me. I am sure that reflection is possible because thought pre-exists," she noted. Afterwards she talked about her relationship with words and images. "My relationship with images was freer, if I may use that difficult word. It was always difficult for me to put words in order, my emotions came to halt, while the images never generated that feeling", she said.


She then spoke about her relationship with Chinese culture and Taoism, and how ideograms helped her in the technique of editing: "The rapid alternation of images causes many levels of signification, such as ideograms in Mandarin. Their language is pictorial, and ideograms have multiple readings. You might say that I have learned Chinese to become better at editing but surely this is not the case. I believe that we have to do the best for ourselves and our careers, but we have to be open to what happens to us, and allow him to guide us," she said.


She then analyzed the insecurity of filmmakers: "I understand the fear of not being noticed, of not appearing at festivals, of not receiving funding. It would seem strange to me if someone weren’t afraid. Filming is a long journey. However, editing films doesn't make you an editor – it makes you someone who edits films. We are much more than our work!" she said.


Regarding the editing technique, she underlined that the most important element is the rhythm. "Everything in editing is rhythm. Let the meanings come to you. You shouldn’t believe you could control everything. When you watch a great movie, you are overwhelmed by emotions and you feel enormous pleasure... This is a political act - what is more political than an invitation to thought and movement? That's how my collaborator, Chantal Akerman, made films", she stressed.


After talking about her thirty-year collaboration with Chantal Akerman, she showed excerpts from her film From the East. Following the screening of the excerpt, the particular style of the director became clear. As Ms. Atherton stated, Akerman had a real connection with people and their worldviews were identical to a great extend – this was the main reason for their long-term and fruitful cooperation: "Our common way was not to set the destination beforehand, but to discover it along the way," she explained.


"Editing is about allowing images to breathe by creating space. It is an act of revelation rather than creation – that is why the editor must be humble. That's our real job: to create a network of resonances among images. In this creative process there is a mystery, I do not wish to sort out", she said. She also referred to the fact that she always loses orientation – figuratively and literally: “I don’t a good sense of orientation. I often lose myself in the geography of shooting and this helps me create new image geography”, she stated. Regarding the new creators and their insecurities, she encouraged them to seek human contact: "you need to meet people, talk, express your feelings... and if you're lucky enough, find a good movie to edit," she concluded.