Winnipeg, prepare to meet your Vlad-Master. The Vlad, a cleverly adapted name for your typical View-Master, was “created” by Portland-based experimental filmmaker Vladimir Solmon a few years ago.
Less of an invention than an experience, each hand-held Vlad-Master is accompanied by a 28-slide reel and soundtrack which prompts viewers to advance slides at the sound of a “ding.” Photo sequences include the tales of an adventurous, non-claustrophobic cockroach and a modern version of the Greek myth Actaeon.
“It’s a weird thing, so I think people are interested,” Solmon explained over the phone from her home in Portland last week. “My first show was in front of 400 people. I’m shy, but I was most nervous about whether people would turn their disc at the right time.”
Her most recent film, Fear and Trembling, references the existential text of Kierkegaard.
“I just loved the title,” Solmon admitted.
The film’s setting is at a dinner party, viewed from the perspective of someone who feels they should not have come.
“Basically it’s a panic attack in View-Master form,” explained Solmon. “It’s a very disorienting and confusing social situation.”
Solmon said the jerky momentum is created through varying the length of images, making it very disturbing if you don’t like dinner parties with prawns.
The accompanying soundtrack is a score written by Morgan Hobart.
A combination of screeching train tracks, distorted voices and underwater ambient noises create a crashing effect that’s “awesome, unpleasant and abrasive.”
But she also explained that Fear and Trembling is probably the least crowd-pleasing of her films.
“All the others are pretty funny and accessible. This one is off-putting and not enjoyable to experience.”
Solmon said that some of her previous films were endearingly inspired by a cockroach collection. She explained that the premise developed after discovering the Latin name for cockroach means “light fleeing” and that cockroaches only feel safe when surrounded on all sides.
“There’s the initial ‘eww’ factor, but then people empathize with their little adventures,” Solmon said. “I’ve always loved insects.”
With several performances across the U.S. and Britain, including shows at the Flatpack Film Festival in Birmingham, England and the Flaherty Film Seminar in New York, Solmon said she noticed that there’s a childish joy in the sound of everyone clicking their View-Master at the same time.
Solmon, who received the prestigious title of World Champion of Experimental Film from the Portland Documentary and Experimental (PDX) Film Festival in 2006, will be bringing her unique experience, The 3D Stereoscopic World of Vladmaster, to the Winnipeg Cinematheque Saturday, March 20.
The pomposity of the title is tongue in cheek, Solmon explained with a chuckle.
“Most people see experimental film as serious and grouchy, but my experience has always been fun – with a small amount of trash talk.”
Experience The 3D Stereoscopic World of Vladmaster Saturday, March 20 at the Cinematheque. Showings are at 7 p.m. and 8:30 p.m.
Published in Volume 64, Number 23 of The Uniter (March 18, 2010)