The Plastic House:
Director's Statement


by Allison Chhorn

The Plastic House (2018, 45 mins, Australia, dir: Allison Chhorn)




Synopsis

 

After the passing of her parents, a girl takes over the family farm by herself. As she becomes absorbed in the process and ritual of working in the green house, the precarious weather threatens to destroy this new life alone.

 

 

“In a strange room you must empty yourself for sleep. And before you

are empty for sleep, what are you. And when you are emptied for

sleep, you are not. And when you are filled with sleep, you never

were. I don't know what I am. I don't know if I am or not.”

- “As I Lay Dying” written by William Faulkner.

 

 

Fear

 

This film was driven by two fears, both of which are still very real. Firstly, as my parents are getting older, I constantly fear the death of my parents and what it would be like if they weren't here anymore. I think about their absence and how I would live emotionally and practically without them. I experience their absence from time to time, when they go back to Cambodia – the absence of my mother's voice, the absence of my father's laboured work. Thinking – who would take over the farm if they were gone?

The other fear is the roof of my house collapsing on me. Seemingly irrational, but the signs of cracks and pieces of ceiling that have fallen have made this possibility all too real. What if I didn't do anything to fix it, but rather let it happen and carried on with what I knew?

Imagining these two fears was the idea for the story of the film.

 

I think you have to be a little crazy, delusional and naïve to make a film, and I had a little more than all those things.


 

 

Alone

 

Is it possible to make a film alone?

Yes, I had made several shorts on my own but a longer film took much more time and commitment. Like making paintings, it's a very solitary but rewarding process.

Yes, I had no skills in cinematography but had certain images in mind. Before making the film, I had dreamed about the mood and atmosphere of fog contained with the concave roof of the plastic house. I definitely wanted to shoot in winter, where it always feels warmer in the plastic house. (I call it the plastic house as opposed to the green house, because of the tactility of the material which covers the whole structure).

The weather in Adelaide feels temperamental – at one moment it's bright and sunny, the next moment it's overcast with a storm approaching. The plastic house, the car window, the bathroom mirror, and even the camera lens would fog up from the difference in temperatures.

 

Out of necessity and accessibility I'm in front of the camera, which makes it difficult to position my self. But trial and error and a few extra takes is what it takes to get the shot. Most of the time, my parents weren't even aware I was filming them.

 

Between shooting there's farm work to be done.

Working in the plastic house is laborious but can also be meditative. The monotony of pulling dry leaves, picking seeds, planting, picking beans, etc – the same action over and over again allows your mind to wonder. As if the process itself was a way to heal, or at least temporarily forget.

 

 

 

Sound – A climate of anxiety

 

The sound of a dense layer of atmosphere was important, as if to fill the void of dialogue and to tell narrative information through sound. There's a RAF (Royal Air Force) base near the farm. I would hear planes, like drones, as I worked in the plastic house. Constant sounds of cars and trucks from the main road and highway nearby. Birds constantly chirping. The presence of outside sounds were signs of other life. There's always the dripping of water from an unknown leaky pipe. Within all of that, I could hear the plastic flapping from the walls of the house to let me know when it was windy outside.

In real life, the house is next to the farm. At night, there's other sounds. The freight train and industrial warehouses produce a different sort of drone. The restless wind sweeps and seeps through the window. Rain patters against the glass and metal chimney. The ceiling creaks from the weather. These sounds were recorded from my bedroom window.

I wanted to produce a feeling of anxiety and impending doom through the layers of collected sounds.

 

 

 

Perception of time

 

The way the film is edited is based on my perception of time. Sometimes painstakingly stuck in the present. Sometimes projections of the future jump out at me. But always informed by the past and maybe too attached to personal memories. Like a non-linear Faulkner novel, the past, present and future can all be perceived silmutaneously.

 

 

There's an absurd freedom working alone and doing everything yourself. You can make all your own decisions but at the same time you only have yourself to blame when you mess up. This film is an accumulation and gestation of my experiences, my fears and insecurities, my thoughts and my own way of filmmaking.

 

 


The Plastic House has its World Premiere screening in Melbourne on Monday, November 19, 7:30 pm, at Long Play. Info here.


Allison Chhorn has an honours degree in Visual Arts at UniSA. The amalgamation of her interests in painting, photography and sound have informed her DIY minimalist approach to filmmaking.



Published November 16, 2018. © Allison Chhorn 2018.