Four Portraits of John Berger
The Seasons in Quincy is the result of a five-year project by Tilda Swinton, Colin MacCabe and Christopher Roth to produce a portrait of the intellectual and storyteller John Berger. Christopher Roth edits parts 1 and 3, and directed part 2. The film is in the official selection of the 2016 Berlinale.
In 1973 Berger abandoned the metropolis to live in the tiny Alpine village of Quincy. He realized that subsistence peasant farming, which had sustained humanity for millennia, was drawing to an historical close. He determined to spend the rest of his life bearing witness to
this vanishing existence, not least by participating in it. Berger’s trilogy Into their Labours chronicles the peasant life of this Alpine village and its surrounding countryside. This portrait places Berger in the rhythm of the seasons in Quincy.
The Seasons in Quincy: Four Portraits of John Berger, 2015
HD film, single screen projection
#1 by Colin MacCabe
#2 by Christopher Roth
#3 by Colin MacCabe and Bartek Dziadosz
#4 by Tilda Swinton
duration: 90 minutes
The Seasons in Quincy: Spring
HD film, single screen projection #2
duration: 18 minutes
In Spring, John Berger’s seminal writing on animals is contextualized in local farming culture, as the cows are released from their winter barns to roam the high Alpine meadows. Responding to several deaths which occurred during the making of Spring, Christopher Roth proceeds to offer a powerful and personal meditation on both humans and animals and their comprehension of death.
Spring / from the voice over
Animals came from over the horizon. They belonged there and here. Likewise they were mortal and immortal. An animal’s blood owed like human blood, but its species was undying and each lion was Lion and each ox was Ox. This – maybe the first existential dualism
– was reflected in the treatment of animals. They were subjected and worshipped, bred and sacrificed.
Ben Lerner and Jeanne Tremsal:
This is spring and we came to Quincy to make a lm about politics. To talk to John Berger about uprisings, about change, the future, and the future of the past. We came to talk about the Prague Spring and the Arab Spring and the perpetual false spring of capital – Spring is utopia and politics is spring.
But when we arrived in the French Alps everything was different.
A private winter had established itself in the household. The illness and the death of Beverly, John Berger’s wife, disbanded everything.John Berger moved here with Beverly in the mid-1970s to understand the lived experiences of peasants.
Up here spring is the time when the animals first leave the stables after a long winter. Much of John’s writing is about animals.
How we see them and how we fail to see them.
With their parallel lives, animals o er man a companionship which is different from any offered by human exchange. Different because it is a companionship offered to the loneliness of man as a species.