An Experience Rather Than A Film: Strickland’s Cold Meridian

Cold Meridian is a short film directed by Peter Strickland in 2020. In the sense what we hear and see sometimes contradicts; sometimes did not precisely meet in between turns this short film into a nightmare. Cold Meridian offers us both a visual and an auditorial experience relevant to our experience of the year 2020 and quarantine revolving around the themes of isolation, loss of time, questioning and discomfort of the identity, and feeling trapped in a loophole where nothing changes.

It starts with an opening scene in a dance studio in black and white. Later, we hear a door opening and some sounds preferably belonging to the steps of someone. Since the mirrors allowed us to see every corner of the room, we know that the studio is empty. Hence, it seems like the source of the sound is unknown. Starting from this moment, until the end, the sounds we hear in the movie are uncanny and make us unsure about the correlation between what we see and what we hear. However, we also see a computer screen at the corner, and the sound system is visible at the scene. There is a possibility that what we hear is a recording. Also, Cold Meridian is playing in the background, a song composed by Peter Terner. So, it could be a recording belonging to the sounds of the preparations and rehearsals for the actual performance.

Cold Meridian 00:00:20

Cold Meridian‘s Dream Like Vision

We start to relate the sounds with the rehearsals that once happened in that dance saloon because we start to see some words on the screen. Only then, we know how to create meaning out of this sound we hear, although we are unsure whether it has a resource we can see. The record both belongs to the past when the rehearsals happened and a performance that never happened. The use of acousmêtre gives power to the performance, both delayed in real life and at the screen, and creates a dream-like vision.

The camera used in the Cold Meridian creates a voyeuristic view. In the beginning, we are the voyeurs as the viewers; however, with the unfolding sequences, the camera posits us as the subjects being watched when Dalma Wéninger starts to staring us while breaking the fourth wall. Now, we are not sure about our place as the audience. Just like the uncertainty of the sources of the sounds, our placement is also uncertain.

Cold Meridian 00:06:00

Displacement of our senses

Our displacement of ourselves as the viewer is similar to the sourceless sound that we are not sure from which scene it is coming from. The whispering sound says, “You saw me last night.” By saying that, it unsettles the idea of a chronological time where we lost track of it both in the film and in the place, we imagined ourselves as the viewer facing the computer screen.

However, this time we are a voyeur watching the 14,732nd viewer taking our place. We get a short moment of relief when we think that we matched the voice counting the footage. However, after saying, “9525,” Dalma’s mouth’s movement doesn’t match the hearing time. Again, we are left without any grounds. With the repeating scenes, voice, and the end scene, the movie becomes a loophole within itself and questions the outside “reality” from its diegetic world. Isn’t it also a loophole now?

“Could Meridian” is a movie serving an uncanny pleasure from watching. It confuses one’s mind and ear with the sounds and images without certain sources and the connections between any components. I would say it is an experience rather than a movie. An experience of a delayed and not yet completed performance due to the COVID restrictions.

(The movie is also available to watch on MUBI.)

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