On View From a Window
Gunvor Nelson calls me. This is early in 2020, during the pandemic. She will soon be 90, can’t travel from Kristinehamn in Värmland to Stockholm, where she has an apartment. She has started filming from her window on the third floor on Kronobergsgatan, but hasn’t got that far. She asks if we could finish the film together. It will be her last, she says. We both live in Värmland, having returned there after many years in other places, and have met briefly on various occasions ever since I was a child. At twenty, when I made my first attempts at filmmaking, Gunvor was already my role model, not least for her singularity and free approach to art, her sense of detail, rhythm and moods. She had seen a short film by me and told me she liked it. I was so full of self doubt and sometimes it can be pivotal that someone sees you at exactly the right moment. Gunvor reminded me of the importance of following your own path, that there is no formula, that every film has its own form.
Gunvor gives me the keys to her flat in Stockholm, and trusts me with staying there and using her camera. She sets the frame, literally a window. A view. Of a park. The study, with its old cutting table, masses of film reels, 35 mm, 16 mm, books, art on the walls. I like standing at that window looking out at the rocky park with winding paths, a nursery school, a graveyard, two park benches, a urinal, a children’s playground, tall beautiful trees. The sweet scent in her flat, the atmosphere. I get to know her little corner of the world, the people there. Seeing how the trees lose their leaves, how the snow falls, and how the vegetation starts budding after the winter sleep. How people move at different speeds depending on the season and temperature. Everyone is going somewhere. Their lives intersect for a few short seconds in a random choreography. Kids sledding, folks walking their dogs, garbage cans being emptied, roadworks, food deliveries, the postman passing the same time every day. I stand for hours, sometimes in the middle of the night or early morning. With only one limited space. Moments of life going on in a constant flow. Cyclically. Time passing. People moving up and down the rocks as if choreographed. And sometimes the park is completely empty.
We meet several times in her home in Kristinehamn, me sleeping on the couch in the big studio in the basement. We eat avocado, drink freeze dried powdered coffee and view the material together. We go for walks and discuss family, love, relationships and Gunvor share memories from her childhood. She tells me about her life, asks a lot about mine. Working together turns us into close friends and I discover new sides to her, layer upon layer. Gunvor proves to be one of the funniest and most genuinely inquisitive people I’ve ever met. And though her body is sometimes weak or hurting, her voice is always distinct and alert. I look into her face. So open and transparent. Seeing timelessness. A face that holds all ages. She is incapable of artifice, cannot hide what she feels or thinks. We discuss taste, music we like, that which holds both beauty and darkness, she tells me about the shades of blue that she appreciates.
Gunvor suggests we edit two seasons each. She wants winter and spring, I get summer and autumn. It should feel like there’s someone in the flat listening to music sometimes, an artist at work, busy with art while life goes on outside the window. We regard the people in the park with love, noticing new details every time we review the material. A small part of the world, a microcosm. I have lent my eyes to Gunvor, she says. I was there when she couldn’t be. I think everything starts in our own approach, how we see or don’t see the people around us. The personal is political.
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