by Michael Mazière

© Michael Mazière

© Michael Mazière

© Michael Mazière

© Michael Mazière

© Michael Mazière

© Michael Mazière

© Michael Mazière

The Red Sea

By Michael Maziere

UK/FR; 1992; Sound, Colour, 20 mins
Soundtrack by Stuart Jones.

"Now I drift through the poem of the sea;

this gruel of stars mirrored the milky sky,

Devours green azures; ecstatic flotsam,

Drowned men, pale and thoughtful, sometimes drift by.

Staining the sudden blueness, the slow sounds,

Deliriums that streak the glowing sky,

Stronger than drink and the songs we sing,

It is boiling, bitter, red; It is love!"

'The Drunken Boat', Arthur Rimbaud.

The Red Sea is a journey through land, sea and the body - across territories of sensuality, pain and memory. This quest is a tragic journey of self discovery, where disturbing images and the striking soundtrack are a testament to intense emotional territories which often remain unspoken or censored. The Red Sea is the bearer of lost images - beauty and horror reel past in a disturbing celebration, a ghost dance set in the depths of an imaginary world.

"It looks to me to be an exquisite and delicate piece of film-making....congratulations on a marvellous piece." Rod Stoneman

"The dancing sun in the evening sky merges with blood-red filtered close ups of water , as light quivers on the surface like strange writing. The slow motion camera of frozen images is reminiscent of Hollywood with its sumptuous melodramas, yet evokes smouldering conflicts and transforms fragments of hands, a note book, the sea, a sunken ship, into dark secrets. An exquisite elegy." Die Presse. Stefan Grisseman .

The Red Sea

'To sleep, to swim and to dream, for ever'

Swinburne - 'The Swimmer's Dream'

The Red Sea is an experimental film which delves into the poetic and mythological powers of water through the subconscious drowning fears of a swimmer's dream. Inspired by readings from Byron , Shelley, Baudelaire and De Quincey and a personal obsession with the reality and iconography of the swimmer, the film creates a world of despair and desire akin to the solitary nightmare of the dreamer. The aim of the film is to translate, in an experiential manner, the dreamt dream; that is, the images and emotions in that gap between the experienced dream and the recounted narrative. This dream space is rich in poetic memory and the film traces a solitary journey through the mind's eye of an imaginary protagonist as he sinks to a watery grave.

In his dream, the swimmer is as a poet, a solitary individual in touch with experiences and mysteries which go deep into the unconscious and often attain a psychotic and delirious level. The immersion into the depths of water is akin to the opium dream, a feeling of blissful buoyancy and the extension of time; yet it also reveals the nightmare visions of a claustrophobic underworld. Swimming, like opium, can cause a sense of detachment from ordinary life. Memories, especially those of childhood, can be evoked with startling strength and in vivid and precise detail.

The sea will be the element which embodies both the desire for pleasure and the fear of the unknown. This river without end, enormous and wide, is a limitless body, a woman as water, the amniotic waters; yet it is also a huge, vaulted, airless space, a catacomb. It is within this world, as the body sinks without movement, that images of a forgotten past appear and the voices of the dead call out.

The film weaves together the dreamer, the swimmer, the underworld of pleasure, fear and memory into an experimental cinematic space, charged with emotion and passion. It combines delicate images of the dreamer, striking and exquisite studies of the swimmer with tormenting memory scenes set in the ghostly depth of the sea.

This Swimmer's Dream uses the fragmented narrative of a dream to explore the vivid contrasts between pleasure and pain, present and past, life and death, in the highly charged and oneiric setting of the sea. This experimental documentary of the psyche will reveal the conflicts and desires present in all of us through the emotive powers of a subjective and experiential cinematic work.

In the Red Sea the swimmer is the embodiment of the dreamer and the sea the physical manifestation of his unconscious. Using a range of potent, aquatic imagery of a disturbing underworld, combined with a precise set of memory sequences, the film moves from a celebration of sensuality and beauty to a tormenting foray into memory, sexuality and death. The nature of the piece is experimental in form and content and includes both narrative elements ( in a non linear structure ) and imagist techniques, weaving symbolic and personal imagery into a multi - layered text.

The visual material was edited and optically printed so as to create concurrent events in one cinematic time. The material is layered through optical printing and edited together with strong recurrent motifs in a montage which will synthesise the different spaces and events. There is a tension between the linear progression of the film and the poetic layering of images.

The Red Sea

Text which have inspired the Work:


- Let me dream, look you in the eye. What is it that dies as we look at it / Yet starts to swell, growing in the shadows to one side ? Like the liar, when the eye dives in as if to touch the real.

Its eye fears the eye's gaze. It knows to much to hold out.

The liar would be truthful if he could forget the truth.

What must the dream forget in order to be dreamt, what is this omission which allows such novelties, gardens never seen before.

You might say that it is not possible to observe a dream properly...In dream you do not remember explicitly. ..dream is thus, from this point of view, a translation of a text whose original sense is different from the dream. But the text suits both well enough. My dreaming self is to my waking self as a reader to an author. The same text is common to both. The text in the dream is more or less garbled. ...Memory supplies the dreamer - with isolated images, not generalisable ones.

Noting this dream, I write it like a story, making a resume or summary of a story, by memory. This is the fundamental error when it comes to narrating a dream. Unfortunately there is no way round it. To obtain the synthesis of it you would have to express it in it's 'atomic' constituents. For the story - which one remembers, is only a secondary fabrication, following an initial state that is non-chronological, non resumable, non-integrable.

Cahiers Paul Valery - Question de reve.

- I saw myself in an unknown region, amongst strange men, thoroughly cheerful and happy. The most beautiful summer day surrounded me in a charming scene, such as might be witnessed somewhere on the shores of the Mediterranean, in the south of Spain or France, or in the neighbourhood of Genoa. We had been drinking at noon round a merry table , and I went with some others, rather young people, to make another party for the afternoon....

We suddenly found ourselves in the sea, upon the smallest of Islands, on a jutting rock 'There is nothing else to be done' said one of us to the other, ' We must undress and swim over to the shore.' 'It is al very well to say so', said I, 'young handsome fellows, and good swimmers; but I swim badly, and I do not possess a shape fine enough to appear, with pleasure or comfort, before the strange people on shore,' You are a fool,' said one of the handsomest, 'undress yourself, give me your form and you shall have mine.' At these words I undressed myself quickly, and was son in the water, and immediately found myself in the body of the other as a powerful swimmer.

The Swim' J.P. Eckerman 'Conversation with Goethe'

- You quite understand general, that when a man has five bottles of wine under his waistcoat he doesn't walk very straight or see very clearly. So I don't quite know how it happened but as I reached the middle my foot slipped, and splash ! there I was in the river! Luckily I can swim like a fish, and I struck out for the other bank; but I don't know how it was - perhaps the river turned and twisted, perhaps the current was too strong, perhaps the other side drew back as fast as I approached - but anyhow, I swam on, following the stream, but never being able to get any nearer to either side. At dawn I found myself entering a much broader river. It was the Marne. I went on swimming. As the morning grew lighter I began to pass people on the banks. Everyone stopped to watch me, and I heard them say,' There's a fine swimmer for you ! Where's he off to, I wonder?"And others would reply, "Oh very likely le Havre or England or America - or - '

'Then I cried out, 'No, no, my friends, I'm not going so far as that ! I'm on my way to the Chateau des Fosses, to carry Comte Charpentier's reply to the General. - kind friends, in Heaven's name send off a boat to pick me up! I swear to you I've no business in America, or England or even Le Havre!"

But they began to laugh, and cried out, "No, No,No! you swim too well! swim, Mocquet Swim!".........................Towards daybreak I saw something like a shadow in front of me. I made an effort to stand up in the water so as to see above the waves. I managed to do so, and spied what seemed to me like an was high time, for I was beginning to be tired.

Alexandre Dumas: Mocquet's Nightmare

- ' fell asleep awake

and fled the unbearable dream for gentle reality

and am humming hue and cry for myself, merrily as they say-

listen to my mouth watering: I see a corpse.

Peter Handke. The inverted world.

- He was invited by fishes to have dinner with them in the water. R. refused and the leader of the fishes told him that in that case great dangers were ahead of him.

Narrative of a Child Analysis. Melanie Klein.


- When I see a swimmer a paint a drowned man.

Jacques Prevert

- For the Greeks water possessed magical, mysterious, and often sinister properties. There was spring that drove you mad, another that once tasted could make you teetotal for the rest of your life. In another Hera renewed her virginity every year. To render Achilles invulnerable his mother dipped his infant body in a river. Water caused men to fall in love with their own reflections, reduced them to hermaphrodites, those indeterminate figures of androgynous beauty that haunted their artistic imagination. ....With the coming of Christianity the West began to lose interest in the sea and the tradition that had spread gradually from Greece and the Aegean. All along the Mediterranean coast villages that had once looked on the sea turned their energies inland............In religious fables the fate of the 'ungodly' was compared to that of the swimmer, adrift in the vastness of the sea, denied the means of reaching safety, and finally overcome by despair....Swimming like sexual pleasure, came to be associated somehow with the devil, and was most suppressed during the domination of Europe by Christianity. It was not until the beginning of the nineteenth century that its popularity revived.

Charles Sprawson - Haunts of the Black Masseur

- If I believed in the transmigration of souls, I should think I had been a merman in some former state of existence.


- Softer than sleep's are the sea's caresses,

Kinder than love's that betrays and blesses


To sleep to swim and to dream, for ever-

Such joy the vision of man saw never;

For here too son will a dark day sever

The sea-bird's wing from the sea-wave's foam

Swinburne. A Swimmer's Dream

- He had been swimming and now he was breathing deeply, strenously as if he could gulp in his lungs the components of that moment, the heat of the sun, the intenseness of his pleasure. It all seemed to flow into his chest.

The day was beautiful and it seemed to him that a long swim might enlarge and celebrate its beauty.

The Swimmer. John Cheever

- O you foaming torrents ! You waterfalls and icy lakes. Shady streams, limpid springs, translucent halls of the sea, how your coolness tempts me! And then how sweet to rest on the yellow sand beside the backward curl of the waves! For it was not the bathe alone that I loved but afterwards the expectant, the mythological waiting for the god's naked and enfolding flame....I brought back with me, on my return to France, the secret of a man newly risen from the grave...Nothing that had occupied me before seemed now to have any importance. I was no longer the same...

Andre Gide

- ...looked back nostalgically to his childhood bathing in Coate Reservoir near Swindon, where 'the water did not seem to resist him, it parted and let him through. Between the strikes he glided buoyantly, lifted by the water as swallows glide on the plane of the air. All this portion of the water was in his power, and it's elasticity as his strokes compressed it threw him forward. He did not see where he was going, his vision was lost in the ecstasy of motion, all his mind was concentrated in the full use of his limbs.

Richard Jeffries

- When Charles Kingsley, whose swims in the Berkshire chalk streams restored him to his childhood, set eyes on the classical Mediterranean for the first time in Southern France, he ran ecstatically through it for miles. He felt he was coming home.

Charles Sprawson - Haunts of the Black Masseur

- Just as one's body has a natural tendency towards the surface and one has to make an exertion to get to the bottom - so it is with thinking.


- All good writing is as swimming underwater and holding your breath.

Scott Fizgerald

- A Buddhist Koan says: " The master holds the disciple's head underwater for a long, long time; gradually the bubbles become fewer; at the last moment, the master pulls the disciple out and revives him: when you have craved truth as you crave air, then you will know what truth is."

Roland Barthes - A Lover's Discourse


- Death-dark and delicious as death in the dream of a lover and dreamer may be,

it clasps and encompasses body and soul with delight to be living and free............

So plunges the downward swimmer, embraced of the water unfathomed of man,

The darkness unplummeted, icier than seas in midwinter, for blessing or ban;

And swiftly and sweetly, when strength and breadth fall short, and the dive is done,

Shoots up as a shaft from the dark depth shot, sped straight into sight of the sun;

And sheer through the snow-soft water, more dark than the roof of the pines above,

Strikes forth, and is glad as a bird whose flight is impelled and sustained of love.

Swinburne. A Channel Passage - The Lake of Gaube

- Could I change you, help you to love me, sweet,

Could I give you the love that would sweeten death,

We should yield, go down, locked hands and feet,

Die, drown together, and breath catch breath.

Les Noyades Swinburne

- In entering to passion the individual shudders momentarily, as if entering an unknown element; but as he has yielded, he will be embraced and carried away like a swimmer by water. He revels in this and does not want to touch the ground until he loses his strength or ramp might drown him.


- Despite the ferocity of the scene, Trelawney 'hastily' cast aside his clothes, ' with nerves throbbing and panting breast, and clambering up to a ledge of rock jutting a clear pool, I sprang in head foremost'. Like all the English champions he used the breaststroke, ' his back bent inwards, his head reined back like a swan's and the chest thrown forward'. ......After reaching the bank on the far side he realised how close he was now to the Rapids ' which no boats nor anything can live in'. Plunging into the river again he felt a cramp affecting his toes and fingers, and his body drifting dramatically downstream held fast by the current. He began to panic:' I now remember the terrible whirlpool below me, I could make no progress, the stream was mastering me. I seemed to be held by the legs and sucked downwards, the scrumming surf broke over and blinded me, I began to ship water. In the part of the river I had now drifted to the water was frightfully agitated, it was broken and raging all around me. Why did I attempt to cross a part of the river that no one had ever crossed before ? I heard the voices of the dead calling to me, I actually thought, as my mind grew darker, that they were tugging at my feet. I saw the waters of the rapids below me ragging and all about hissing. '


- As I swam with a thousand twists and turns striking the water and drawing it towards me, threshing my arms about, I felt a kind of murmuring in the midst of the pool, and growing frightened, leapt onto the nearer bank...


- Some years later Matthew Arnold was to follow Shelley to the 'soft blue Spezian bay'. After hiring a boat and being rowed half a mile offshore, he stripped off his clothes and dived into the water. He too was to feel its fatal charm. He found himself reluctant to surface, and the sea so enticing that it was 'difficult ever to raise one's head out of it'. He had shown early signs of such susceptibility when a boy he disconcerted his father by spending an entire summer holiday imagining himself a corpse at the bottom of lake Windermere..........One night not long before he died Shelley dreamed that his friends had drowned, and their lacerated and decaying bodied were coming to warn him of an approaching flood. '

'..the look of agony he cast as the steamer hurried past him, the sight of his body sinking deeper and deeper, his arms outstretched towards the surface;....

Crabbe's experience of almost drowning in the river Waverney when a young man caused him to dream that he walked unharmed and breathing in the depths of the sea over which great tidal waves had rolled. The cities of opium affected writers are often sunk deep in stagnant seas, the inhabitants isolated from each other, unable to communicate.

Charles Sprawson - Haunts of the Black Masseur

The Unconscious

- It is generally accepted that in the area of the unconscious, water and any form and immersion in it suggests a hidden desire for a return to the security and irresponsibility of the womb and its amniotic waters. .....all the swimmers already mentioned were strongly attached to their mothers and felt alienated from their fathers.

- Think, for instance, of a writer who is trying to convey certain ideas which to him are contained in mental images. He isn't quite sure how these images fit together in his mind, and he experiments around, expressing things first one way and then another, and finally settles on some version. But does he know where it all came from ? Only in a vague sense. Much of the source, like an iceberg, is deep underwater, unseen- and he knows that.

Douglas Hofstadter- Godel, Escher, Bach

- John Cooper Powys describes at length and vividly the 'ichthyosaurs ego' that provided the impulse for much of his swimming. He related it to his concept of 'loneliness' as the soul's strongest link with all the earlier stages of evolution.'

- A psychotic is a guy who feels in touch with the underlying real.

William Burroughs

- A river without end, enormous and wide, flows through the world's literature's. Over and over again: the women-in-the-water; woman as water, as a stormy, cavorting, cooling ocean, a raging stream, a waterfall: as a limitless body of water that ships pass through, with tributaries, pools, surfs and deltas; woman as the enticing and perilous deep, as a cup of bubbling body fluids, the vagina as wave, as foam, as a dark place ringed with Pacific ridges; love as the foam from a collision of two waves, as a sea voyage, a slow ebbing, a fish catch, a storm; love as a process that washes people up as flotsam, smoothing the sea again; where we swim in the divine song of the sea knowing no laws, one fish, two fish; where we are part of every Ocean, which is a part of every vagina. To enter those portals is to begin a global journey, a flowing around the world. He who has been inside the right woman, the ultimate cunt-knows every place in the world that is worth knowing.

Klaus Theweleit. Floods, Bodies, Histories. Male Fantasies

- Utamaro illustrates the fantasy of the diving girl as she crouches on an island and looks down into the sea, which here and elsewhere symbolises the unconscious mind. Under the water she sees herself seized and outraged by two male demons, kappa-devils or river goblins that lurked in the sea in the neighbourhood of river mouths. Shunsho depicted numerous others entwined and raped underwater by human or beasts, a concept that was to take its most exotic form in the brilliant shunga design executed by his pupil Hokusai, of a diving girl and Octopuses. .....' is truly frightening: it is of a Japanese woman mounted by an octopus; with it's tentacles, the horrible beast sucks the tip of her breasts and rummages in her mouth, while its head drinks from her lower parts. The almost superhuman expression of agony and sorrow - which convulses this long, graceful female figure with aquiline nose - and the hysterical joy - which emanates at the same time from her forehead, from those eyes closed as in death - are admirable.


- Like those opium addicts of the 19th century analysed by Alethea Hayter, these swimmers felt themselves to be pariahs, elect outcasts, insulated from their fellow men. They too often experienced through their swims the classic constituents of an opium dream: 'the feeling of blissful buoyancy, the extension of time, contrasts of temperature, the bliss of the outcast'. Any one who submerges some way below the surface into deep water can experience those nightmare visions of De Quincey, inspired by drugs and the prison etchings of Piranesi, of sinking down through huge vaulted airless spaces , among rocks and columns that rise up from the ocean floor in a limitless and yet claustrophobic expansion of space, alone, but not unobserved; there is a sense that one is always under surveillance, invisible enemies and predators are somewhere hidden beyond in the shadowy gloom and remote recesses; the sensibility sharpens; the slightest touch or sound can cause alarm in this silent world........ Both the opium addicts and the swimmers tended to be solitary, remote figure, who felt themselves superior to dull, conventional minds. The descriptions of their experiences are like those of a man who has just explored an unknown territory, and returns to astonish us with his discoveries.

Charles Sprawson - Haunts of the Black Masseur

- To me the universe was all void of life, of purpose, of volition, even of hostility ; it was one huge dead immeasurable steam-engine, rolling on its dead indifference, to grind me limb from limb.....having no hope, neither had I any fear, where it of man or devil. And yet, strangely enough, I lived in a continual, indefinite, pining fear, tremulous, pusillanimous, apprehensive of I knew not what; it seems as if all things in the heavens above and the Earth were the boundless jaws of a devouring monster, wherein I, palpitating, waited to be devoured'.

Mr Carlisle, my Patient. Dr James Halliday. from A.Huxley. Heaven and Hell

Biographie de Michael Mazière

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