The Chat room Manifest

Tove Krabo

  • All the dialogue is taken from a chat on the Internet between people who have never met each other in real life
  • At least one of the persons behind the text is also an actor in the film
  • The dialogue has to dubbed
  • No flashbacks are allowed
  • No computers are seen onscreen

“I have an old Higgins/Eliza-complex. I do nice things for a fine woman. The I enjoy her getting fully-fledged and leaving.” An anonymous man says this to me on the Internet. I have saved lots of different dialogues during a period of seven years. From him and others and in different languages. I put on a disguise, sometimes as a man, sometimes as older or as younger. I use language and only the language as an identification marker. Through the language and the dialogue come characters that become a film.

My project Chatroom consists of dialogue taken from Internet forums. It’s a document about the communication of our time. But as important – or even more important – is that the films work as fiction films.

The idea for Chatroom arose when I realized the richness to be found in different Internet forums in the shape of situations, replies and existential questions, when meeting unknown, anonymous persons. It would never occur to me to call a male French character Bird of Night. Neither would I have thought of, the one calling himself Bird at Night, flaunting his certain knowledge of Freud and Lacan while actually working as a karaoke host.
Since the Internet is a young medium analogies are easily made, “if this was reality, how would things be?” I have chosen to ask the question “If this was a film, ow would things be?”

But instead of staging the private rooms where each of the two characters sit in front a computer and dream of meeting in real life, instead I’ve chosen to make a rather radical dislocation; the persons act out their Internet-lines, that often lead to the possibility of actually meeting or choosing not to, but the action occurs in the same physical room.

This has several benefits as I see it. If you accept the premise that the dialogues are real dialogues between real people, then details when portraying have great importance. We read the film as a detective story. It originates from a documentary source but still manages to become fiction. In the example with the image series it’s obvious that the sequence in a “shopping mall” leads up to a moment in the dialogue – the ladder. The man in the series turns around, without effort, towards a ladder standing towards a wall. He says:
“I need a ladder to look you in the eyes”. Then the environment is “forgotten” again: the connection to “reality” disappears. This was a possible location while preparing the filming of Chatroom 01. Instead I chose a Chinese restaurant as the location for Chatroom 01 because the main characters often referred to eating Chinese food. It was such a place they would be likely to met, if they had actually meet. The actual film environment reflects a projection of a physical place crated through the dialogue. This thought is the opposite to the idea of the private living room where people sit behind computers. The point of this is to completely break away from the thought that the persons are separated from each other. If you and I actually meet what kind of film will it be?

In the gap between what is said and what is seen a slip emerges that I find interesting to explore.

I have a question of depiction I’m developing:
How to create continuity and a driven story while the physical continuity of the room is radically changed?
How to play with the idea of gliding in and out of the text? For example, when a woman says “I’m sitting in my room alone” I se three alternatives of showing this.

  1. Play along with the line.
  2. Replace the meaning of the line in the cyber world with a hint at it’s meaning: the feeling can be underlined with a substitute. Maybe the person (and audience) sees someone else sitting alone. Maybe the scene is built in such a way that, at that moment, the line coincides with the actual physical state.
  3. Ignore the audience (distance one self). Here we see the woman standing, surrounded by people.

These slippages between text and what the spectator obviously has in front of him/her shift between a depictions in total collision with, substituted by (or hinted at) or in complete unison with the text. By these means I want to make these film, to a high extent as possible.
In addition it’s not at all certain that only one actor plays the character. When preparing for my next work I want to work as much as possible with the feeling that you have no idea if a character is telling the truth or not. I also think about the experience, from the point of the chat room. There is an inherent strength in two people writing their own film, and projecting what kind of film it will be. If for example the references to My Fair Lady are as obvious as in the example of “I have an obvious Higgins/Eliza-complex” I wonder how I can use that. I don’t fear making references to other films, provided there in the dialogue is such a reference.

Chatroom 01 concentrates on the difference between the subjectively experienced and that, which is obvious for the spectator. We follow a couple in different short scenes – Bird of Night and Julia – that agree that every try to describe the Self end in disappointment. They avoid, at any cost, describing themselves to each other and sharing the pretention that it is what’s within that count. But Julia betrays their contract and creates a new alias and steals information about how he looks.

Chatroom 03 takes place during the night that MSN (ultimately Bill Gates) decided to close down the salon “Writer’s World”. After having analyzed what was written during a five hour period, in real-time, I from this distilled a apocalyptic revenge-plot: Bill Gates (MSN) is closing down the room where poetry – preferably suicidal – is recited by a loose bunch of bored persons. A woman starts reciting the others persons. She is thrown out but logs back in as Bill Gates.