One of the great draws of cinema is the opportunity it provides for filmmakers to make real on screen for all to see, whatever their imaginations can dream up. However that being said, perhaps it is cinema’s ability to communicate the powerful emotions of an individual experience into a form which can speak personally to an audience of strangers that is its true strength as an artform. Such is the case in the visual essay There is No End, in which editor turned director Paul Speirs “unravels the patterns of conditioning that create the unmanaged expectations we take into life and love”, by use of rich cinematography and a well chosen accompanying monologue taken from the words of poet Franz Wright. We asked Paul to share the experience which provided the inspiration for his universally relatable film.
Three years ago I was visiting people in hospital, a mix of individuals whom I had never met and many of whom had no friends or family (according to nursing staff). I met one elderly gentlemen who had TB, a host of illnesses and AIDS (unconfirmed). He was in incredible pain. When I greeted him, in his mother tongue of which I am able to communicate fairly well, he was taken aback and very surprised. I thought it was because I was a young white South African speaking Zulu to an older African man, but I soon found out the surprise was because I was just speaking, visiting and talking to him. When I explained my intentions to purely “vagasha”, a word in zulu which means “to visit/get to know”, and I held his hand, his surprise turned into tears, tears that were mixed with the agony he was in and the fact that I was sitting by his side, touching, talking and listening to him. He was very sick, could hardly move and besides his failing body also suffered from bed sores – I could do little for him. He begged me to help him out of his bed, to open the windows and help him drink water – he was constantly thirsty, very thirsty!
I returned a week later to visit again, he was worse off, had had no visitors and again cried tears of agony begging me to help him out of his bed. I sat and stroked his arm talking, listening, praying and sitting in silence as he would shift slightly, try get up suddenly, then rest again doing his best not to move due to the pain it caused. A few days later I returned hoping he would have improved but found his bedroom empty. He had died that morning – alone! I sat in my car crying. Less for the man I would not see again and more for the situation of life and the state that our mortality holds us too.
This short film and my writing began after that experience – it begins with a glass of water and the metaphor of thirst is continued throughout. The practice of loving unconditionally resonates as one of the most powerful forces on this earth and as we search for meaning in life and question what this life owes us, I think the answer we forget may lie partially in the – “what do we give without intent, love without return and live for one another…” Broad themes but worth exploring…
I spent a year writing different versions and actually edited out a lot of the initial story also, only finding the perfect poem to compliment the footage after the editing process. I shot the entire film on a Canon 5D Mark II – all with a 50MM prime lens – I had friends and work colleagues helping me and the cast were all untrained connections I made here in Cape Town. The whole process took 2 to 3 years to complete.