1. Introduction

Film is translation

In the medium of film, many creative processes of translation take place: those between script and image, between directors and actors, between the audience and the projection of the film. Making a film is therefore often described as transposing an idea or a script. Actually, this process of transposition is one that takes creative processes further and completes them. To echo Walter Benjamin, these processes can be understood as something alive and productive, as moments that propel life forward.

During the making of a feature film, many questions can be asked concerning specific processes of translation: What acts of translation take place between an idea, the development of a script and the shooting of the film? How are ideas translated into a narrative? What influence do the protagonists have on the film? Is there freedom to improvise? What influence do the location, the mood, the atmosphere have? How is it possible to ascertain the success of the artistic translation?

Questions such as these relating to performative acts of translation constituted the starting point of our research undertaking. We wanted to address them specifically within the context of the intimate. The focus was on artistic processes of transposing intimate moments in the filmmaking process.

Capturing Intimacy: Translating Intimate Moments in Film



Film is Intimacy

For the purposes of our research project, we began by formulating a few research questions on the basis of various theoretical and practical approaches. In addition to such philosophical studies as that done by François Jullien (Jullien 2014), social scientific approaches such as that adopted by Lynn Jamieson (Jamieson 1998), or queer-theory interpretations by Lauren Berlant (Berlant 2000) were an inspiration to us. Two quotations in particular held our attention during the preparatory phase of the project:


If intimacy is defined as any form of close association in which people acquire familiarity, that is, shared detailed knowledge about each other, then it is impossible to conceive of a society without intimacy. (Jamieson 1998, p. 8)


Intimacy builds worlds; it creates and usurps places meant for other kinds of relation. (Berlant 2000, p. 2)

According to Jamieson’s concept of 'disclosing intimacy', intimacy consists of a close connection between persons who possess knowledge about each other that is privileged with respect to others. In addition to this, there is a relation of deep understanding as well as a form of love. (cf. Jamieson 1998, pp. 1-10) Lauren Berlant understands intimacy basically as a phenomenon characterized by a kind of communication that has the fundamental quality of eloquence and brevity. 


Furthermore, Berlant holds that a basic element of intimate relations is the aspiration to experience a story together, to share a story.This common or shared narrative usually unfolds in circumstances of familiarity and comfort. Nevertheless, intimacy, like every other kind of social construction, is determined by norms, rules and fantasies. (cf. Berlant 2000, pp. 1-8)

Mindful of the many facets of intimacy, we concentrated above all on the points where theory and artistic practice intersect, that is, on questions relating to how intimate scenes can be created on the film set and how they can be reflected upon. How does one stage intimacy? Is an intimate atmosphere at the shooting location helpful? What knowledge gained from experience by filmmakers is important with respect to various forms of staging? What norms, rules and fantasies do filmmakers bring into play, and how? How does one go about reflecting on one’s artistic practice?


During our preparations, we took as a basic assumption that intimacy as dealt with in the media was in all cases staged. Accordingly, whether or not something in a film appears intimate is essentially an aesthetic question. If in one instance it is the fine sensitivity of an actress that is most important, in another instance the camera work or aspects of the lighting design are what make it possible to create intimacy and enable the viewers to experience it deeply. It was precisely this kind of acting and this kind of knowledge about specific artistic methods that we set out to investigate in greater detail.