In a clinic in Mali, in the late 1980’s, Sebastian, a young gay American physician discovers that to live with his new diagnosis of AIDS, he first needs to change the story he tells about himself.

The Great Mosque of Djenne in Mali

With FLY ANGEL SOUL, we utilize virtual production methods to radically alter the process of filmmaking. Here, liveness rests less in the performance of the actors (captured prior to filming with volumetric video) and more in the way the cinematographer responds to the mis-en-scene (spatial sound, captured performance, architecture, lighting, and objects) as it changes in real time. In so far as the mis-en-scene responds to the presence and actions of the cinematographer and vice versa. Filmmaking is a documentation of a call and response between the story”machine” and the cinematographer. As such, the set is critical to the filmmaking–not only to provide context for the story, but also to provide an environment for the cinematographer to inhabit and interact with. In such an environment, rules of the game stand in for “natural” laws. We are so pleased to have found Paolo Barlascini, an intuitive and intrepid artist who is acting as production designer/environmental architect.

Michel Foucault suggests that the contemporary organization of space resembles how data is organized on a computer in that it takes the form of “relations among sites” rather than a fixed local. For him, “the heterotopia is capable of juxtaposing in a single real place, several spaces, several sites that are in themselves incompatible.”

Paolo Barlascini, Artist and Production Designer working on the architecture for FLY ANGEL SOUL. VR is the ultimate heterotopia.

For FLY ANGEL SOUL we create a heterotopic building and environment. On the outside, the medical clinic references the soft edges and earth colors of Malian mud buildings. However, the interior itself is rigid. Whereas, the exterior displays the passage of time as erosion, inside time is regulated, represented by a rhythm of repeated arches.

Interestingly, Foucault suggests:

“the last trait of heterotopias is that they have a function in relation to all the space that remains….their role is to create a space that is other, another real space, as perfect, as meticulous, as well arranged as ours is messy, ill constructed, and jumbled. This latter type would be the heterotopia, not of illusion, but of compensation.

Indeed, in FLY ANGEL SOUL, the massive scale of the waiting room suggests a kind of over-compensation that tends towards the mythic (or the pathological… )

Architectural Plan of Waiting Room for FLY ANGEL SOUL

Here, the regimentation of the interior reflects both society’s attempt to “straighten” him as well as his own attempt to regulate his frenetic emotional state (exposed through rapid fire speech and large erratic gestures in scene 1. In this space, memory also complicates and unmakes the order of the architectural space. The uniformity of the space is disrupted by videos of other spaces from Sebastian’s past life in LA. These videos offer the tantalizing possibility of escape from the space Sebastian and the cinematographer finds herself in. It is as if the film audience could actually step into another film entirely.

Paolo’s design for the Doctor’s office in FLY ANGEL SOUL

In the second scene, the doctor’s office is designed as a long hall lined with windows, at the end of which is a massive wooden desk. Here, the the ceiling slopes down and the width of the room narrows to something less regal and more domestic as the doctor as king becomes doctor as father figure. The windows look onto a garden, an almost impossible oasis in the desert, which suggests that underneath all this sand, there is water, life. The shadow play of flora and fauna (birds and the eponymous flies) on the floor of the clinic brings the outside in. These arabesques queer and enliven the space, complicating the linear swaths of light and shadow that divide the room. In the same way, in his conversation with the doctor, Sebastian begins to loosen his rigid conception of good and bad which he has used to damn himself with all of his life.

In the last scene, both shadow and light disrupt the linearity and regularity of the waiting room space. The architecture itself has not changed, but now the interior resembles the exterior more. Similarly, the exit which mirrors the entrance, appears worn away by the passage of time, sand has built up in the corners, a little plant grows. Although Sebastian will die, his perspective has changed. With the rigidity of God, the father subsumed by the home/womb of the mother, there is the possibility that for the time that remains, Sebastian can find a new way to live.

Here, again, is Foucault:

The space in which we live, which draws us out of ourselves, in which
the erosion of our lives, our time and our history occurs, the space that claws and
gnaws at us, is also, in itself, a heterogeneous space.

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