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Saint Clair Cemin, Psyche

Directed by Svetlana Cemin

Ramtin Ebrahimi


Documentaries are openings to new worlds, new ways for seeing the things not easily noticeable in routine life. They deal with subjects unavailable for us or reveal secrets which are difficult to handle. They focus on issues which are not included among the study of a majority of people and viewers can watch the essence of documentarians’ studies and research in the form of a film and can add it to their reservoir. Hence, it is necessary and vital for us to watch documentaries.

Saint Clair Cemin, Psyche has an interesting beginning. From the beginning, it takes you to the heart of its world. With the help of its music and amazing images that immediately introduce the character, we set foot inside its world. In a snowy day in Brooklyn, we enter a studio that is supposed to be the starting point of a long journey, a studio which is an opening to a surrealistic world of unique experiences. The film informs us about its intention of seeking for new experiences and the onset of such experiences is the studio of an artist who sees the world differently and takes advantage of various artistic tools to express his feeling. We see him working on his new projects which are experiences for expressing a circumstance, a feeling, and a speech.


We accompany him to a shop where he can buy the required tools for his next artistic work. These steps are shown to us like the phases of a tradition. He is the sort of an artist who, similar to French surrealists, pays a lot of attention to his source of inspiration: dreams. Bringing one of such dreams into action makes us familiar with his working method. He talks about the dream of a floating boat and we soon see him creating this scene. He meticulously draws the lines and carves the objects to achieve the desired result. At the same time, he talks about his working method, ideals, dreams, art, and dedicating oneself to art. Observing how he creates an infinitely delicate work out of these raw materials, how he adds details to the work and forms its identity is an amazing experience one should not miss. The art of the filmmaker lies in beautifully following these steps.

The director, Svetlana Cemin, skillfully uses this studio to better introduce the world of the protagonist to us. Decoupages are meticulously and dexterously designed, images of the film are vehemently eye-catching and appealing, and all is set in a way that the viewers feel the studio is the center of the world for the artist, where dreams can be turned into reality, and where long hours can be spent on slightest sections of an artwork. The studio images delicately get us closer to the protagonist and simultaneously create an identity for the studio itself. Meanwhile some shots, combined together with experimental music, work their magic in creating a distancing effect.


This is the journey that the artist takes during the film, a journey that we, as the witnesses of the path he takes, simultaneously take via watching. The filmmaker successfully separates and mixes the two journeys in an appropriate time. We notice how the artist creates something out of a dream he once had and he involves many people in its creation. Gradually, the boat changes into something pretty, real, tangible, artistic, and alive. There’s a geographical journey in the film and a journey to the inside, the psyche, of the artist himself, a journey to bizarre nightmares and appealing dreams, a journey to gloom and light, to experiencing novelties. Saint Clair Cemin, Psyche in this regard can be considered as an experimental documentary seeking to find an answer for our most fundamental questions: questions involve the nature of arts, the manner of achieving a pure work, the mere meaning of purity or impurity of an artwork.


One of the interesting points of the film lies in the amount of time spent on searching for the life of the artist. The filmmaker has spent a lot of time with the protagonist and has captured many brilliant shots from this period, displaying the artist’s loneliness, hesitation, happiness, and sorrow; images showing behind the scene of the creation of art. The film skillfully avoids including interviews as far as possible. Rarely do we face with a person sitting in front of the camera and directly speaking to us about an issue. Although from the beginning we hear the artist’s voice on the images as the narrator, the filmmaker attempts to create everything in a cinematic form, and creates a story even out of the process of making an art to be able to tell a story;  artistic monologues either poetic and vague, or dealing with technical issues of art, or the artist’s inner feelings help us to accompany the artist with his life story.  From this point of view, the film is a stunning achievement; a film that through centralizing its protagonist and getting closer to him via different visual and narrative technics places him in the center of our attention, makes us understand his inner feelings and  makes his concerns important to us, and makes us want to follow his journey.

Saint Clair Cemin, Psyche is one of the most exciting documentaries through which the audience can witness a kind of maturity; maturity of artist who is always searching for new sources of inspiration, for new methods and forms, and maturity of a narration that from seemingly unimportant issues like an artist’s daily habits reaches to the most important topics such as the meaning of life and the power of art in reflecting such meanings. Producing such a film needs a lot of financial, mental, and physical investments, care and meticulousness that involves moment capturing, pondering over narrative decisions, interacting and cooperating with the artist, and many other unimaginable points that Svetlana Cemin has successfully overcome, and has produced a breathtaking, exciting and, in some moments, stunning film; a documentary that simultaneously aims at heart and mind of its audience, gets closer to them by its always-searching protagonist, and sheds light on life. The film attempts to help us understand life better and it succeeds in doing so, and that in itself is a unique achievement.

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