Copy Shop is film noir about a man who works in a photocopying shop and one day creates a copy of himself.
His daily life is as repetitive as his work – and the film is an examination of the consequences of repetition; the man gets out of bed, washes in his bathroom and walks the short distance to work where he works alone copying documents. His walk to work involves an amorous ‘meeting of eyes’ with the local flower arranger and when that daily glance is stolen by his created copy circumstances start to slip out of our hero’s control.
Things take on a more sinister turn when the copy starts to multiply himself.
The film is exposing the repetition of modern life but also questions the value of something if that something is no longer unique. This is expressed in the main character – Alfred Kager’s loss of identity in having created countless copies of himself and the director has deliberately created a state of confusion for the viewer in keeping up with who is the real Alfred Kager.
This is achieved in the play between subjective and objective shots. When we view Alfred in an objective camera shot in a scene in which Alfred realises that his double is in the same room, the objective angle becomes both a subjective and objective point of view. This, as Widrich points out below, is breaking the rule that the character must not be seen in a subjective shot.
“In the cinema, one important rule must be adhered to so that the viewer registers the change from an objective to a subjective angle, at least subconsciously: the difference between objective and subjective angles is that the one watching must never be directly visible in a subjective shot. In "Copy Shop" this rule is deliberately broken.”
[See ‘Identity’ section at http://www.widrichfilm.com/copyshop/core_en.html ]
The exploration of repetition and copying was literally undertaken by the maker (Virgil Widrich) in the process of making this film: The film was shot with digital tape and then transferred onto a computer. Each frame of the film was then printed out using a black and white laser photocopier. Now here is the bit that I don’t fully understand – those photocopies were then animated and re-shot with a 35mm camera.
“Thus video becomes paper, paper becomes film and the story of ‘Copy Shop’ is brought to life again ‘copy by copy’ ”
[See ‘Identity’ section at http://www.widrichfilm.com/copyshop/core_en.html
This technique wasn’t just a gesture of irony – it created the films very strange visual effects in which we see the very outer frame of the picture slide into view and sometimes tear. The look and feel of this film is unlike any you will have experienced before and this is partly because of the process described above but also because Widrich changed the frame rate half way through the film from 12 to 24 fps. It all adds to the disorientation felt by us, the viewer, each of us unique and identical.
Warning: Watch this film and you will think photocopying is evil.