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This photographic diptych depicts two views of an interior set used by Douglas for his two-channel video installation Journey into Fear, 2001.
Douglas’ installation was inspired by the 1975 Daniel Mann film Journey into Fear, one of the first major films to be shot on location in Vancouver. Mann’s film a remake of the 1942 film of the same name directed by Norman Foster, which was based on the 1940 novel by Eric Ambler.
Ambler’s book and Foster’s film are set during the Second World War. The protagonist is an arms dealer named Mr Graham who has been negotiating a sale in Turkey. He is forced to flee the country on a commercial sea trawler which he discovers is also occupied by a sniper hired to assassinate him and his would-be assailant’s employer, Möller. Möller gives Graham an ultimatum: Graham must choose to be killed en route, or to feign an illness and remain convalescing in hospital for three weeks in Italy. The latter option would delay the shipment of arms Graham has organised, putting the Allies at a disadvantage in the War.
In Mann’s version of Journey into Fear, set during the 1970s oil crisis, Graham is re-cast as an engineer surveying for oil deposits in Turkey. Möller is the representative of a company that would benefit from the delay of information held by Graham reaching America. In both films Graham ultimately survives and Möller is killed.
Douglas’ video, like the two Hollywood films, is set on a container ship. Two characters based on Graham and Möller discuss and argue; Möller tries to convince Graham to delay a container en route to Vancouver, an act that would destabilize shares in a particular Asian contractor, leaving the company’s shares vulnerable to an aggressive takeover. These scenes, which form the majority of the video, take place in the ship’s pilots quarters.
The diptych presents views of the sets used for filming these scenes. Both photographs show the sets from a distance, exposing the sound stage in which they are situated. The sets are empty of people but lights and microphones are visible. Both images show the cabin with a ‘fourth wall’ removed to allow filming take place. In Pilot’s Quarters 2 the cabin is seen from behind the pilot’s bed, while in Pilot’s Quarters 1 the bed is seen on the left side of the room.
Douglas’ practice has always included photography as a source and inspiration for his filmmaking as well as an art form in itself. The large scale images of the set serve to highlight the artifice of filmmaking, laying bare the techniques involved in film-making.
Stan Douglas, Journey into Fear, exhibition catalogue, Vancouver Art Gallery in conjunction with the XXV Bienal de São Paulo, 2002, reproduced in colour front and back cover.
Carsten Ahrens and Veit Görner, ed., Stan Douglas: Film Installations and Photographs, exhibition catalogue, Kestner Gesellschaft, Hannover 2003, reproduced in colour pp.28–9.