In what is more of a visual art project than a traditional documentary film, “Self-Portrait” lacks a ton of purpose and storytelling. Demanding much from its audience, this film is a cinematic collage of actual footage captured by surveillance cameras over the last four years. Director Joële Walinga weaves together moving snapshots of places around the world, creating a portrait of what security cameras are set up to capture.
This film is more of an experience, something that sets a visual mood rather than a traditional narrative feature film with a story. The action comes in the form of flickering streetlights, rolling fog, soaring birds, playful shadows, falling snow, and windowpanes dotted with raindrops. Once in a while, a human passes through the frame.
The soundtrack is provided by ambient background noise captured on camera. The only thematic organization is by seasons, starting with scenes of winter snow, following with spring, summer, and fall. There’s no outline or story which is frustrating if you’re expecting a film with a plot or structure.
I found very little meaning in “Self-Portrait,” but I did enjoy the feeling of zen-like peace that it provided. It’s an extremely subjective work, and one that would be right at home in a modern art museum.
This is a film best enjoyed in smaller bites rather than sitting down and consuming it all at once (the runtime clocks in at just over an hour). After all, it’s comprised of actual video clips from surveillance cameras, which admittedly gets tiring even after ten minutes.
By: Louisa Moore