An unusual young blind man who is able to walk without a cane wishes to transfer his skill to other blind people. His motivational words and inspirational talks empower the patients but met with the rationalist reluctance of the doctors who accuses him of giving false hope.
Alexandra Maria Lara and Edward Hogg in Andrzej Jakimowski's "Imagine", photo: Kino Świat
A dog barks in the distance, we can hear the roaring of engines coming from behind the thick wall. Birds are scratching the metal railing of a window sill with their claws while nibbling on seeds and fly off in a flash. Somewhere near a woman is calling her cat, a gardener is cutting a rose bush and the shutters of an old monastery screech. Ian (Edward Hogg) , a young and charismatic instructor arrives at a Lisbon institute for the visually impaired. He himself in blind and walks without the help of a cane and will be transferring this technique using a complex network of sound cues to the patients.
He says that all objects can be heard. By tapping the floor with his heal, he can hear the chair put in front of him as a joke by some young patients, the closet that stands in the hallway and even the bicycle in the institute’s yard. The children patients don’t believe that he is really blind. He will be teaching independence. His technique is very demanding, it requires the people to activate their imagination. His methods spark the interest of Eva (Alexandra Maria Lara) a sensitive young blind woman who isolates herself from the rest of the group. Soon she will ask Ian to take her outside the estate walls.
Jakimowski’s cinema is like an intimate conversation. In 2002 he shot his debut film for his daughter, in order to bring her closer to understanding the concept of time. Squint Your Eyes talks about a ten year old girl running away from her wealthy parents to learn about reconciling personal freedom with dependence on others from her teacher. "There is no need to stare like that," the main character played by Zbigniew Zamachowski tells the young girl, "when you squint your eyes, you can see what has passed away (…) things don’t go away forever, they only become more distant". Imagine is dedicated to his wife and, as he says in an interview, is was made to remind her and himself that closeness to the other person consists in discovering and making a common understanding of the world.
In Imagine, love is portrayed as more than affectation, or simple infatuation, it is shown to arrise when two people look at the world in the same way. Incredulous at first, Ian and Eva become fascinated with each other. They venture out into the beautiful and perilous streets of Lisbon. He talks to her about the world; she listens and starts believing in and seeing sounds. She sees a giant ship which moored at a harbor which bounces back the sound of church bells and a cherry tree growing nearby.
Imagine’s protagonists, the patients of a prestigious institute for the blind in Lisbon create their vision of the world through sounds. The viewers of the film are able to put themselves in the shoes of the blind. "How can we perceive and appreciate the nature of what being blind must be like while indulging in highly aesthetic visual act [watching a movie]?" Exclaim reviewer Robert Bell asks, "What distinguishes Jakimowski's work from being a mere motivational and inspiring parable is both his well-calculated style and his refusal to make saintly those with a disability. Thrusting us into their day-to-day struggles, he frequently films characters in close-up, which leaves us similarly blind to what they're walking into" Bell notes. "It may be weird to think, but there’s no better medium than film to transport an audience into the world of the blind," The FilmStage's Jared Mobarak answers the same question, "Adam Bajerski [the film's cinematographer] and Jakimowski find some beautiful ways in which the camera can keep us viewers in the dark when the characters themselves are not. By zooming in close to the faces of the actors, we can read their thoughts as they process sounds and vibrations to move freely about town. We catch the illuminating “a-ha!” from a wry smile or the realization of danger by a sharp tilt of the head".
The cinematography is the work of Adam Bajerski, who has worked with Jakimowski on Squint Your Eyes and Tricks. He makes the stills more dense and focused on the characters making the shots almost claustrophobic hence allowing the viewer to experience a glimpse of what it is like to be blind. For Imagine, Jakimowski chose to work with the composer Tomasz Gąssowski again. His music has come to be the trademark of Jakimowski’s films. The solemn and busy reality of Lisbon is accompanied by a tightly woven score – vibrating, seductive and whirling.
As a director, Jakimowski has a unique sense of storytelling and building suspense. The scene in which Ian tries to locate Eva, who is hiding, by sound of her steps is like a shy tango, Bartosz Staszczyszyn writes for culture.pl. Ian and Eva are curious of each other but at the same time petrified by the presence of another person. Jakimowski’s films are recognisable, his style is awareness of form and a sense of humour. Just as he did in Squint Your Eyes and Tricks, in the last scene Rafał Guźniczak makes an appearance – creating Jakimowski’s cinematic signature.
The Polish, French and Portuguese coproduction premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in September 2012.
October 2012 Best Director for Andrzej Jakimowski at the 28th Warsaw Film Festival
- Imagine, Poland, France, Portugal 2012. Directing and script: Andrzej Jakimowski, cinematography: Adam Bajerski, music: Tomasz Gąssowski, scenography: Ewa Jakimowska, editing: Cezary Grzesiuk, sound: Jacek Hamela, Guillaume Le Braz. Cast: Alexandra Maria Lara (Eva), Edward Hogg (Ian), David Atrakchi, Melchior Beslon. Production: Film and Music Entertainment Ltd., Association of Artists and Artisans, KMBO, Filmes do Tejo. Duration: 105 min.
Sources: based on the text by Bartosz Staszczyszyn for culture.pl, Robert Bell for Exclaim, Piers Handling for TIFF, Jared Mobarak for FilmStage
Editor: Marta Jazowska