Take What You Can Carry, my first film made outside of Baltimore, is my most personal and formally playful work yet. Inspired by Georges Perec’s text Species of Spaces, it imagines a character in transition, living in a foreign city for an indeterminate amount of time, trying to balance the various and distinct public and private manifestations of her personality.
Hannah Gross, for whom the role was written, moves across the frame with a particular kind of precision, purposeful and hesitant at the same time. She imbues Lilly with a buried, private history that disappears with a smile. Lilly’s grandmother, the film’s other central character, is never seen, only heard through the letter Lilly receives from her and reads aloud, an actual letter written by my grandmother to me. For the supporting roles, I cast a number of actors I’ve admired from afar, including Angela Schanelec, Jean-Christophe Folly, and members of the Berlin-based theatre company Gob Squad. The excellent technical and producing team was European and the film was funded through a grant from The Wexner Center for the Arts and a fellowship from the Harvard Film Study Center. It was written and produced in a summer.
Because everything came together very quickly, I found myself writing for imagined locations while actively scouting real ones, adding new scenes to incorporate the people and places I found along the way. It was a continuing dialogue with Berlin and the friends I’ve made there, but in the end there is almost nothing of the city on screen except the sounds, as if its image existed only in the collective imagination.
“I would like there to exist places that are stable, unmoving, intangible, untouched and almost untouchable, unchanging, deep-rooted; places that might be points of reference, of departure, of origin.
Such places don’t exist, and it’s because they don’t exist that space becomes a question, ceases to be self-evident, ceases to be incorporated, ceases to be appropriated. Space is a doubt: I have constantly to mark it, to designate it. It’s never mine, never given to me, I have to conquer it.”
— Georges Perec