BBC Culture

Talking Movies

Edward Hopper’s paintings brought to life

The American artist’s iconic images have been turned into a movie. Tom Brook talks to the filmmaker who animates portraits of alienation.

“His paintings look so cinematic already, but to really reconstruct them was quite a task,” says Gustav Deutsch. “We tried to be as honest as possible to his paintings, in terms of the light, the colours, the details – but on the other hand we also tried to add something.”

For his latest work, the Viennese filmmaker and architect has created vignettes out of 13 Hopper paintings, moving from the 1930s to the 1960s and linking to actual events in US history. Centred on a character called Shirley, the film’s series of dioramas thread together painting and film, revealing the ways in which reality is staged.

Deutsch has been making experimental films for 30 years. Many of them are created from archive clips: one project, Film Ist, uses footage from educational films. Despite this, he says, “it’s not a documentary. It is a film that looks for the poetry that is embedded in the mathematical structure of scientific films.”

He talks to Tom Brook about his process, while critics discuss the impact of experimental cinema on Hollywood. “There are plenty of mainstream directors who have really seen and taken lessons from avant-garde filmmakers,” says Tony Pipolo of the Millennium Film Journal, citing Martin Scorsese as an example. “They often do break new ground, which then gets co-opted by mainstream cinema.”

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