Just Like A Shadow

Film Stills and Text By Jonas Mekas


As an exile, as a displaced person, I felt that I had lost so much, my country, my family, even my early written diaries, ten years of it, that I developed a need to try to retain everything I was passing through, y means of my Bolex camera. It became an obsession, a passion, a sickness. So now I have these images to cling to... It's all ridiculous, I think. Because what I have, after all, is already fading, it's all just like a shadow of the real reality which I do not really understand. When you go through what I went through, the wars, occupations, genocides, forced labor camps, displaced person camps, and lying in a looming potato field - I'll never forget the whiteness of the blossoms - my face down to earth, after jumping out the window, while German soldiers held my father against the wall, gun in his back - then you don't understand human beings anymore. I have never understood them since then, and I just film, record everything, with no judgment, what I see. Not exactly "everything", only the brief moments that I feel like filming. And what are those moments, what makes me choose those moments? I don't know. It's my whole past memory that makes me choose the moments that I film.

I usually film my friends, or my family. As it happened all the people who played a central role in the life of arts in New York, during those decades, they were all my friends. And, of course, most of them were not yet famous at all. We were all involved in the same thing. We were like a large family. We knew each other, we helped each other. And of course, sometimes we argued. It was an incredible period. Why did I film it all? I have no real answer. I think I did it because I was a very shy person. My camera allowed me to participate in the life that took place around me. My film diaries are not like the diaries of Anas Nin. Anas, whom I knew, she agonized about her psychological adventures. In my case, the opposite, whatever that opposite may be. My Bolex protected me while at the same time giving me a peek and a focus on what was happening around me. Still, at the very end, I don't think my film diaries are about the others or what I saw: It's all about myself, conversations with my self.

Sebastian, my son, New York, 1983 (From As I was moving ahead occasionally I saw brief glimpses of beauty)   Elzbieta Mekas, my mother, Lithuania, 1971 (From Reminiscences of a journey to Lithuania)



Miles Davis and John Lennon play basketball, 1971 (From He stands in the desert counting the seconds of his life)   Self-portrait with a girl, Cassis, 1966 (From Notes for Jerome)



  John Kennedy Jr. tells a secret to Anthony Radziwill, his cousin, 1971 (From He stands in a desert counting the seconds of his life)  

Jonas Mekas is a writer and filmmaker. He is the founder of Film Culture and Anthology Film Archives in New York City. He also founded the film column of The Village Voice. His films include The Brig, He Stands in a Desert Counting the Seconds of His Life, Walden, Guns of the Trees, and  As I Was Moving Ahead Occasionally I Saw Brief Glimpses of Beauty. He was born in Lithuania and immigrated to the United States after World War II.

The text and images are taken from Just Like A Shadow published by Steidl Publishers.



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Logos 3.2 - Spring 2004
Logosonline 2004