Thirteen of Edward Hopper’s paintings are brought to life in the latest film by visual essayist and documentarian, Gustav Deutsch. Through these, he tells the story of a woman, whose thoughts, emotions and contemplations let us observe the 30s, 40s, 50s and early 60s of American history.
Deutsch offers up some of his thoughts behind this intriguing concept of film creation:
What fascination does Edward Hopper hold for you?
There are two things about Hopper that fascinated me, which weren’t clear to me at the beginning: firstly, as an avid cinema goer he was strongly influenced by film. He clearly references film noir by the way he uses lighting and frames his subjects, and he also had a strong influence on filmmakers through his paintings. When Alfred Hitchcock shot Psycho, he was clearly guided by Hopper’s House by the Railroad. Secondly, Hopper is considered a realist painter, which is not something I found to be true upon closer analysis of his paintings. Hopper does not portray reality but stages it. The staging and assembling of reality is also the nature of film.
You have not only stepped away from found footage material to painting, you have also moved from essayist, experimental works to fictional narration. What brought you to fiction?
It was the paintings. Albeit, just the paintings and not the context. In my previous work, I was establishing a connection between the images of diverse films. Through montage, I managed to create meaning by attempting to unearth something that was not the original intention of the filmmakers. I wanted to narrate new stories, and this is also true for Shirley – Visions of Reality. I tell “other” stories with Hopper’s pictures as well.
Perhaps even Deutsch couldn’t envision just how successful his venture would be. The film’s three-dimensional reconstruction of Hopper’s paintings is doggedly sincere, sharing trademark visuals such as clean-cut colours, and heavy lighting contrasts. It’s so spot-on; you’ll feel as though the entire film was painted by Hopper himself.
Shirley – Visions of Reality; shirley-visions-of-reality.com