Adrift: Havarie, an Acousmatic Film by Philip Scheffner


My aim in this essay is to offer a reading of the documentary Havarie (2016), a film by Philip Scheffner that is essentially based on complex and unusual relationship and disassociation between image and sound, a film made of stories and visions of migration, powerlessness and wanderings. In slowing down and extending video footage of a small dinghy in the Mediterranean shot by a tourist from the deck of a cruise ship, the film provides viewers with a singular visual and ethical experience that is intensified by the presence of a rich sound environment, including that of recorded voices. In the film, pure listening to off-camera sounds and voices is coupled with pure visuality on the screen. Voices enable viewers to navigate the film, as though swimming upstream, by imagining the community of people addressed by the image. Guiding by Michel Chion’s theory of “acousmêtre” and Paul Zumthor’s discussion of vocal performance, this essay explores the interplay between sound and image in the film in terms of “phantomachy,” “hypersociability,” and “epiphamêtre.”

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