I recently watched Su Freidrich’s film, Sink or Swim, and for the second time around, am still amazed at how she is able to produce these undeniable connections between audible and visual language through the strength of her narratives.
There are strong elements of childhood present in “Sink or Swim”, which consists of twenty-six short stories each titled with a letter from the alphabet in descending order. Friedrich showed a clip of where she first started utilizing music with her work. In “Kinship,” scenes of a sun setting through the view of an airplane window while taking flight were combined with clips of the tides, shore birds, and other calming events, as a song by Schubert played in the background. In this film, she reveals the memories of a girl whose father left when she was still very young. It is apparent that she is concerned with ideas about the family and the impact that memories can have when people are growing up. There is another clip that played which was slightly haunting. Titled “Ghosts,” it was a close-up shot of a typewriter creating a letter that narrated the woman’s feelings to the audience. Although the script is not spoken, the viewer is still able to identify with the narrator through the senses, be it the slightest hesitation of the speaker’s voice paralleled with the speed/disruption of rhythm in typing. This clip was shot entirely in negative color, which only made it easier to capture the attention of the audience through such bold letters. The narrator ends her message with: “I wish that I could mail you this letter.” It signified her defeat, or at least the acceptance of her parents’ separation, which created the troubled past that she knew could not be changed.
Her fascination with dreams and memories are definitely presented as the basis of most of her work by focusing on the analysis of family relationships, themes of imagination and reality, as well as finding the extraordinary in everyday life. She has successfully utilized experimental film to reveal the state in between, which allows her viewers to be carried along in the flow of her memories. Her passion as an artist and filmmaker inspires more than just those who share her love for documentary and narrative film.