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Frederick Abrams

The Underground Cathedral

Frederick Abrams

The Underground Cathedral

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© 2013 Frederick Abrams, The Underground Cathedral

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LOVE AND FEAR

Q. In your film there is a tenderness in the way that you filmed people. I think they never look awful. There’s sadness…

A. There’s many reasons I chose the underground and you do see a lot of sadness, a lot of poverty. It’s irritating sometimes when people are always asking you for money. I don’t find it always pleasant, when someone plays music and they play it badly or aggressively, and then they ask for money on top of it. I didn’t ask them to be there. To me it’s often something of an imposition and an aggression, but at the same time a lot of color of life comes from all that people bring to a social environment and in that place that’s often dreary and not too pleasant sometimes a musician enters into a train and plays something beautiful that changes your spirit for the day. I will never forget one harmonica player in Paris. He played with incredible delicacy and everyone applauded him. It was really remarkable because many musicians walk in and people act like they don’t even notice that they’re there.

Paquito
Paquito
Paquito
Paquito
Paquito
Paquito
Paquito
Paquito
Paquito
Paquito

But even so, people are trying, in their mind to contribute something to people and I think that we can easily become insensitive to other people’s conditions. This man in Barcelona, “Paquito,” doesn’t look too pleasant. He has a big bump on his nose, he looks very sad at times, people walk by him constantly and ignore his presence. I wanted to focus on his pain and on enough of his character that the viewer starts to feel who he is, what it might be like to be him, to break down the barriers between oneself and others and to feel compassion for other people, because it’s so easy in our daily life to ignore and forget that others aren’t so fortunate, to be insensitive to even ourselves. In urban life it’s very easy to look straight ahead like a horse with blinders and block everything out to get through life.

I’m trying to make people see the delicacy of things that they often don’t notice, the subtleties, the things that one takes for granted everyday.

I don’t mean just in the people, but in everything, like the posters on the walls, looking at everything with a sharper focus, with more sensitivity. As already mentioned, there’s also in the film numerous moments which refer to danger and fear and I tried to explore what are real fears and dangers as opposed to what is in our imagination, which I think is never really clear. It’s a problem of how easily people become afraid of what they don’t know, particularly in our cultural differences, how people often react negatively just because someone has a different skin color, because they dress a different way, because they speak a different language.

Q.Could the metro be a place to focus on fear?

A. Yes. I do focus on this particularly in “Greve,” or in English, “Strike,” which shows numerous still images or scenes having to do with something that would perhaps create fear. You see the face of a Cheetah, which is from a poster.

Of course, there’s the cliche of the “concrete jungle,” and at the same time there’s an announcement of a driver who has been attacked. I think it’s a complex subject to discuss, but fear is all around us. People can become phobic, such as Howard Hughes who later in life feared that all germs and bacteria were going to attack him. Hughes, a very wealthy man, would probably never have imagined riding in the metro. I’ve ridden in the metro many, many times and have never had a dangerous experience. I’ve almost been killed in a car twice, I’ve been robbed on a train and twice on a bus. Of course, this can occur on the metro as well. I suppose the point is to question how do we develop a healthy attitude about how we participate in life with a respect for what could be unhealthy or dangerous without being unreasonably if not destructively paranoid or phobic.

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