By Davis Rivera
Since Orson Welles first made his love of the Tarot known in the 1958 masterpiece Touch of Evil, there has been a calling to filmmakers everywhere to look to the cards and make something extraordinary. Philadelphia filmmaker Hanna Hamilton has done just that with her latest work The Fool’s Journey, a visual experiment comprised of twenty-two short films devoted to the twenty-two cards of the Major Arcana. I was able to interview Hamilton when her film screened at PhilaMOCA as part of their Tuesday Tune-Out, a weekly series that features local musicians performing live before introducing a film of their choice. When asked how long the idea to make The Fool’s Journey had been gestating in her mind, Hamilton revealed details about her upbringing that shed light on the personal approach she took when making the film:
My family is Wiccan so I’ve been using Tarot cards since I was a little kid. Growing up, I would draw and paint a lot and always wanted to make my own deck. At the time, I assumed the deck would be illustrated because I didn’t get into film until my senior year of high school. When I reached the end of my junior year of college, I knew I wanted to make this film. The idea started with me wanting to make a digital Tarot deck so that you could have each film on a DVD or VHS tape and do readings with the actual movies. I didn’t combine them all into one film to watch all the way through until after I shot most of it.
Due to thoughtful editing and a score that Hamilton partially composed herself, the journey from the beginning of the deck, to the end is seamless and one cannot imagine the film existing in any other way other than the format she eventually decided on. It is also clear that this is the work of someone whose cinematic language is all her own and that the result is not a series of random absurdist half-thoughts but, rather, a carefully crafted passion project that made the transition from brain to screen with few compromises. Regarding her process, Hamilton said:
Going into the different shoots there were specific scenes that I could have painted first. I knew exactly how I wanted them to look. I also picked the people who appear in the film because they reminded me of the card and I wanted them to be themselves in the scenes. There wasn’t much acting involved.
Knowing exactly how she wanted the cards to look allowed Hamilton to work without ever having an exact shot list and gave her the freedom to overshoot everything in the process. It also made doing a Tarot reading on her film unnecessary before filming commenced.
I did general Tarot readings but I never did a Tarot reading on my film. I never encountered any obstacles. I only ever do Tarot readings when I feel like I need help with something but I didn’t really run into any problems making the film.
During the band Hot Guts’ performance at Tuesday Tune-Out they had manipulated scenes from Godard’s Vivre sa vie playing behind them. The sequencing fit well and also prompted the question of whether Hamilton would ever consider allowing a band to perform using The Fool’s Journey as a backdrop.
I worked so hard on the sound and it wouldn’t be the same. Those songs were composed specifically for my film and I don’t think any other music would fit. But I do prefer to show my films with live music, rather than in a theatre. I feel like it makes more sense because I’ve always loved the music scene and going to shows. I’ve always practiced visual art as opposed to audible art so I couldn’t really participate in the way I wanted to and this was my opportunity to do so.
Whether in a theater, during a live show, or in a museum, The Fool’s Journey demands to be seen by everyone because it is a film for everyone from a filmmaker who believes in the healing power of art, the importance of life, and the journey we all take.
It’s not my life story but it is a general life story and since there’s no narrative to follow I figured people would pick out what they needed to see, just like in the Tarot.
You can watch the trailer for The Fool’s Journey HERE
Davis Rivera is the recipient of the Marguerite & Otis Walter Scholarship for Excellence in Art History, founded the UArts Literary Society, recently completed a book on the last American auteur, and is working on two films to be released this spring. He lives and works in Philadelphia, PA.
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