Documentary "Ten Minutes Older", 1978, by Director Herz Frank (1926–2013)
“Ten Minutes Older” (Vecāks par desmit minūtēm) might be one of shortest films included in the canon, but it is definitely the most well known outside of Latvia, especially with other film professionals. This 10-minute film directed by Herz Frank is a fascinating experiment that attempts to relay the full gamut of human emotions in 10 minutes.
“Ten Minutes Older” is a documentary which is considered part of the well-known Riga School of Poetic Documentary (RSPD). The director, Herz Frank, is known for his daring cinematic experiments that aimed to examine the human psyche. Frank began his film career as a scenographer, writing the scenario for “The White Bells” (Baltie zvani, 1961), another film included in the canon. The inclusion of two of his film in the canon attests to the influence he had on Latvian Soviet cinema. His work was driven by a need to expose and examine the human soul. A theme evident in all of his films such as his controversial “The Last Judgement” (Augstākā tiesa, 1987) where he filmed the confession of a man on death row for murder, or “Flashback” (2002) where he filmed his own open-heart surgery.
This film is a wonderful example of poetic documentary not just in Latvia but also within the broader global tradition. It approaches the quotidian, the everyday, as something poetic and worth attention. In the film we literally watch a group of children grow ten minutes older. As the audience we watch a handful of children watch a puppet show. We don’t see what the children are watching, rather we watch the children watching. The children, obviously unaware of our presence, watch the show uninhibited and react animatedly to what is happening in front of them. A range of emotions are captured, joy, fear, sadness and many shades of each.
Frank aimed to capture “real life” and present it in an artistic manner, but still as a document of fact, without the help of montage, deliberate choice of material or narration. This is why the film is shot in one take, with no cuts or other editing. The length of the film was dictated by technology, as film historian Kristīne Matīsa highlights, because at that point in time one film reel was exactly worth 10 minutes of film.
However, while the film does not display any obvious technical editing, there was much editing going on behind the camera with the strategic selection of the material that would form the film. First, Frank had to make sure that whatever the children were watching would allow for a wide range of emotions to be expressed within the ten minutes. He, therefore, went to a number of theatres and shows aimed at children to find the work that would have the most ups and downs and follow the basic narrative ark with a complication and resolution. He ended up with choosing Rīga Puppet Theatre’s show about a good doctor called Aikāsāp (which translates to “Oh how it hurts”).
Second, Frank carefully selected the children that he would film watching the show. He held auditions to ensure that the children he selected had the right emotional range and reactions to the world around them. He also wanted them to have that unadulterated naivety and openness that adults no longer possess. There is anecdotal evidence relayed by Matīsa that he turned one 4-year-old boy away because his reactions were “too old”.
Nevertheless, this film has influenced some of the worlds most renowned filmmakers. In 2002 15 directors came together to create their own versions of “Ten Minutes Older” in “Ten Minutes Older: The Trumpet” (2002) and “Ten Minutes Older: The Cello” (2002). Those that were involved in this project included directors such as Werner Herzog, Jean-Luc Godard, Wim Wenders and Jim Jarmusch.
You can watch the film online for free within Latvia on the portal www.filmas.lv.
Franks, Hercs. (2011). Uz sliekšņa atskaties: dažādu gadu publikācijas. Rīga: Mansards.
Informatīvais izdevums „Kino skolās”. (2016). Rīga: LNKC.