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2020 - 2022


a short film

A Dance on the Abyss between Music and Silence

In retrospect, these tumultuous years may amount to no more than another sigh in the endless wake of history. Will this be the last pandemic, the final war? Conceived in response to the first lockdowns of 2020 and completed in 2021, The Last Leaf is an experimental short film in the genre of a fiction-documentary hybrid.


At the dawn of covid, amidst the inexhaustible noise of a digital world that has consumed humanity all but entirely, the decision was made to imagine a visual piece that could give expression to the domain that intertwines music and silence. In the words of Robert Bresson, “silence is necessary to music but is not a part of music. Music leans on it.”

It is the elusive relationship of music and silence that underpins this film, and serves as a foundation for a dramaturgy established solely by means of a subjective logic. For classical music, it remains a demanding task to strive for dialogue with moving images through means that function independently in and of themselves, rather than as illustration of a performance or narrative.

In this regard, the e-flat minor prelude of J.S. Bach, BWV853, partakes as a central actor and presence throughout The Last Leaf. The foreboding laugh and words of visual artist Jason REVOK, taken from an interview in 2019, serve as a preamble underpinned by a sonic transformation of Bach. Here there are only shadows and echoes of the e-flat minor, a key rarely found in the baroque and included in Bach’s well tempered clavier by necessity of challenge. Nevertheless, this key gives birth to a prelude that carries such strength and weight, it may well function as a standalone composition.


The Last Leaf is constructed as a mirror of the prelude, a tombeau-like, somber passage amidst time. At the core of the architecture is an effort of reconciliation, where images produced throughout the early days of the pandemic, governed by their own internal rhythm, are molded with episodes of archival performance footage from past Detroit Sessions productions.

The opening series of wandering thoughts are set against a backdrop of a frozen autumn and overrun by a drone of sound, perpetually restless. The stillness of image is all but an illusion, and only through the first motions of camera does it find resolution in the d major phrase of Beethoven’s Archduke Trio, giving light to a quintessentially human conversation between instruments, as if the cello is asking Shakespeare’s heartbreaking question - “how with this rage shall beauty have a plea?”


This plea is confronted with silence. The memory, the dream, the thought – all transitory and reduced again to a muted, abstract nature. There are no people here, no contemporary hysteria or necessity of self-expression, just pizzicato drops of water dissolving in the wind. Suddenly, the bow of a violin, a reflection, an echo of a dance - it is the d minor vivace di piú of a Brahms violin sonata soaring alongside the projected buzzing tape loops of Jason REVOK - imperfect concentric lines vibrating with intensity, full of color and ephemeral. Happiness has found a meaning once more. However, this too is only a vision punctuated by silence, a moment of anticipation just before a performance. Or after?


Nevermind, for we must keep going, and it is essentially human to pass calmly without notice. Thus, a leaf, una ultima foglia, in some untidy corner, would be mistaken to hold on against the inevitable passage of time. Only a whisper is left, an aphorism of Tonino Guerra, that “in autumn the sound of a falling leaf is deafening, as with it falls an entire year."

Let us remember those words of Auden, “about suffering they were never wrong, the old masters…”, before passing through this next portal. The mask has been lifted, and here, the disciplined harmonies of Bach, like pillars of light in and of themselves, reveal an entirely different world only a half step upward from the preceding music. It is a museum where performances were once heard by hundreds of people, the same space that was just a moment ago brought to life by a Beethoven phrase. Now there are only the old masters - what secrets do they have left to tell, or have they given us all that is possible?

Instead of human faces, the camera now envelops the humble, anonymous workers of Diego Rivera. They are left in peace to focus on their task. There is no empty chatter - perhaps these workers are carefully choosing the words not to say, or more importantly, they do not need to say anything, for they are simply builders. When the world is at an end, it will be they who come to mend what has been torn apart. They will continue to outlast us, but perhaps their time is also finite, as our world would be far from the first to dissolve into nothing more than fragments to be found by future civilizations along the road.


With the turn of a phrase, a new gallery, and in the moment of absolute focus in the Bach, the appearance of a-flat minor. It is met with the formal and crisp style of Bellini, the olympian principle, the coldness, the absolute necessity to divest of all passion, the impermeable secret of a masterpiece, or perhaps a confession of the only true meaning - love and sacrifice. Immediately, a descending musical canon of fragments brings forward the Dreams of Men of Tintoretto. It is this madness of creation, the agitated brushwork, the quintessentially vain Faustian desire to reach forever beyond and the never-ending anguish of a soul that drives uncontrollably forward in search of freedom that cannot exist, abruptly resigning by way of Bach’s deceptive cadence, all toward an unknown room.


Brueghel’s Wedding Dance emerges from the darkness, pulsating between color and monochrome - ochre, brown, green, red, blue and white tones all connected into a sweeping mass, building toward a point blurred beyond recognition by a fully diminished seventh chord. The camera moves across the canvas toward the very edge of this celebration over the abyss, revealing a figure kindly smiling down toward a group of anonymous musicians. They are consumed in a rhythm of a time when music played such a different role than it does today. With one final sigh of the Bach prelude, the purely rhetorical resolution to e-flat major, we arrive upon the expression of a hidden figure - the wonder of a mystery seeker, who reminds us that art, ultimately, is not about word explanations but intense experience.


WINNER - Tokyo International Short Film Festival - 2021.png
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OFFICIAL SELECTION - Paris Independent Film Festival - 2021.png
SEMI-FINALIST - Montreal Independent Film Festival - 2021.png




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Gretchen and Ethan Davidson

Dr. Ali Moiin and Dr. William Kupsky


Production Company:

Zara Creative


Director of Photography:

Noah Elliott Morrison


Steadicam Operator:

Bart Dangus



Veronica Rogalla



Matt Hallowell


Sound Design:

Caroline Siegers



Christiaan Meyer


Narration by:

Jason Williams

Fabrice Calmels

Irene Maiorino


Performances by:

Bruno Monsaingeon, violin

Aleksey Shadrin, cello

Roberto González Monjas, violin

Ivan Moshchuk, piano




Andante cantabile ma però con moto in D Major from the “Archduke” Trio, Op. 97

Ludwig Van Beethoven

Vivace di più in D Minor from Violin Sonata, Op. 110

Johannes Brahms


Prelude in E-Flat Minor from the Well-Tempered Clavier, BWV853

Johann Sebastian Bach




Diego Rivera

Detroit Industry Murals, 1932-33


Gift of Edsel B. Ford, Permanent Collection of the Detroit Institute of Arts


Giovanni Bellini

Madonna and Child, 1509

Oil on wood panel

City of Detroit Purchase, Permanent Collection of the Detroit Institute of Arts



The Dreams of Men, mid-16th century

Oil on canvas

City of Detroit Purchase, Permanent Collection of the Detroit Institute of Arts


Pieter Bruegel the Elder

The Wedding Dance, 1566

Oil on wood panel

City of Detroit Purchase, Permanent Collection of the Detroit Institute of Arts

Jason REVOK 

Spectre, 2019

Time-based digital projection 

Courtesy of the Artist and Library Street Collective


Online Conform and Finish by:

Windsor Creative Inc.

Colorists - Christiaan Meyer, Arun Mohan

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