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E.M.M.A., Eugene Feygelson, Karel Van Bellingen 'INTRANCE' by Diana Olifirova

David Knight - 21st Apr 2022

London-based Ukrainian cinematographer Diana Olifirova has created a mesmerizing dance-based short film, on the subject of identity - in which she is also the sole dance performer.

Olifirova enacts an improvised dance performance in a series of beautifully composed photographic portraits - self-portraits, in fact - that were filmed in Kyiv and London. These locked off shots capture her movement within intriguing spaces, interior and exterior, where Olifirova has maximised the impact by her inventive use of framing, lenses and exposure.

It's both a traditional and timeless approach, made fresh by the passion which she pours into the piece - on both sides of the camera. And the film is complemented beautifully by a wonderful Ukranian folk-influenced soundtrack, called INTRANCE, created by electronic musician E.M.M.A., violinist/composer Eugene Feygelson, and editor/composer Karel Van Bellingen.

It is, of course, also extremely poignant. We see Olifirova in numerous evocative locations in Kyiv. Although this was started before the Russian invasion of her homeland, it was edited as the war began, so it's also marked by that conflict, particularly as it progresses into its final stages. As such, it also acts as a representation of an indominitable spirit.

"From Ukraine to the UK and back I find myself spiralling through spaces redefining my identity, memories and future," she says. "From precipice of infinite possibilities comes a self-portrait INTRANCE exploring fear, resistance, bravery and change.

"The music came first and it was the source of inspiration for me - we went through the process of creating the track from scratch which was very new to me. Having spend ages collecting reference music (from Jon Hassel to Gaspar Claur to Ukrainian folk music) and talking over them in endless selfies videos trying to understand the nature of my interest that I have sent to the team, I finally got brave enough to get on with it and make a real recording session happen."

From precipice of infinite possibilities comes a self-portrait... exploring fear, resistance, bravery and change.

Oliferova brought electronic musician E.M.M.A. (whose track Glitter is featured on her previous film Quadrality) and violinist and composer Eugene Feygelson together at her place in London to create the track that became INTRANCE.

"After an inspiring session of gong bath we played E.M.M.A.'s original arpeggio and improvised on top with violin, guitar and piano, and jammed over and over again to come up with a melody I could use for a dance - that I also partly attempted at the recording session itself!" she explains.

"There is always an element of the unexpected with unplanned sessions," comments E.M.M.A. "But the shared focus and short timeline were very effective at instilling the parameters we needed for Eugene to apply his violin melodies, like a painter with brush strokes bringing the composition into sharper relief."

Feygelson adds that the opening music -  in 6/8 time, made of multiple strings - was really emotive for him. "It’s like a nostalgic tragic dance, something you remember from your youth, or an idyllic past, like the way an infant sees the world - or that feeling when you listen to the crackle of a 1920s record. It’s very Eastern European, and it’s something we can no longer access. Maybe it never even existed.

"That feeling is slowly eroded by these thumps, like a hatchet across a tree, knocking down your sense of hope, of idealism. It then turns into a power up - the electronic sounds from EMMA fill you with this zeal, a strengthening of self, for the fight, whatever that fight is. Driving and driving you forward."

Feygelsen describes the music created as "feminine, lyrical, nostalgic and Eastern European, not a surprise, but nothing we had planned before the two days we spent in Diana’s apartment." Meanwhile, EMMA says that collaborating with Olifirova was like collaborating with another musician. "Which is quite unusual in itself. It made it very easy for us to work together as she completely connects to music with her heart and being. We can see this from the final film."

But at the editing stage, as she worked with editor Karel van Bellingen, the horrifying events occuring in Olifirova's homeland started to impact upon the film.

"Having been influenced by the war that was kicking off in my home country, I started adding sounds of the military march and bombs which felt correct and very moving," she says. "Karel has also played a lot with the piece and collaborated with E.M.M.A. to come up with amazing and dynamic result. Having someone in the edit that is equally brilliant with music and rhythm made a process even more coherent and collaborative in-between the visual and the audio."

"With the war in Ukraine the context in which we were making the score changed," confirms E.M.M.A. "The music shifted in response. Karel, an accomplished musician as well as an editor, heightened the music's sense of urgency for both the film and the times with layers of drums. The final result we are all very proud of."   

"Thé film finishes with something so painful, you can feel the steel of the strings against your ear, it’s so desperate as if nothing is left," says Eugene Feygelson. "The way it matches with Diana’s eyes, these are extreme sounds from the violin, performed brutally three note chords, and very close to the bridge, a decomposed version of that strong violin melody.

"It’s hard to detach from the pain we were all witnessing in the Ukraine war, and the conflict. It’s impossible to separate the composition from the contemporary event."

David Knight - 21st Apr 2022


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Diana Olifirova
Diana Olifirova


Director of Photography
Diana Olifirova


Production designer
Simon Walker


Jovana Gospavic


Anatolii Sachivko


Karel Van Bellingen


Joseph Bicknell


DoP's representation
United Agents

David Knight - 21st Apr 2022

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