By Bregt Lameris
Over the past three years the University of Zurich has hosted the research project FilmColors. Bridging the Gap between Technology and Aesthetics, led by Prof. Dr. Barbara Flueckiger and funded with an ERC Advanced Grant. I have been part of this project as a postdoctoral researcher, investigating film color in relation to perception and affect. This included colored representations of hallucinations in film with a special focus on some of the films made by Eric Duvivier that have been stored at the archive of Image’Est in Nancy.
Duvivier made over 700 films, mostly in co-production with the pharmaceutical industry. Some of these films represent a subjective perspective on hallucinations caused by mental illness or drugs, which I used as a case study for my work. Within the context of the project we take photographs of archival film prints in order to register as many color systems as possible that have been used in cinema. These photographs are accessible through our Timeline of Historical Film Colors. Duvivier mainly used the beautiful Kodachrome II reversal film material. The combination of his choice of color film material and the topic of hallucinations from a subjective point of view made his films a perfect case study for my research. As a result of the extremely kind collaboration of the archive of Image’Est, as well as with Christian Bonah Professor for History of Science at the University of Strasbourg I have been able to collect some amazing images of this materials. In addition, with the team in Zurich we were able to execute an experimental digital restoration project, based on four different prints of the same film. This allowed us to see differences in color balance in various film prints that were made and shown on different occasions and various moments in time.
From September 7 to November 24, 2019 we have been presenting part of the results of our research in an exposition called Color Mania – The Material of Color in Photography and Film, at the Fotomuseum Winterthur. The exposition is curated by Nadine Wietlisbach, Director of Fotomuseum Winterthur and Dr. Eva Hielscher Film Scholar and Guest Curator. At the exposition the aformentioned work on the Duvivier has been on display as well. In addition, one of his films will be shown at the Internationale Kurzfilmtage Winterthur in November this year.
The exhibition has been developed in collaboration with Prof. Dr. Barbara Flueckiger’s research projects «ERC Advanced Grant FilmColors. Bridging the Gap between Technology and Aesthetics» and «SNSF Film Colors. Technologies, Cultures, Institutions» at the University of Zurich, with support from the Swiss National Science Foundation as an Agora project for science communication.