This film is amazing.
You might THINK you're watching a film, and in a way you are, but you're really not. What you are, in fact, seeing is nearly 18,000 photocopied digital frames that were animated and filmed using a simple little 35mm camera.
Written, directed, produced, and edited by Virgil Widrich, this is "the story of a man who copies himself until he fills up the entire world."
"Copy Shop" has won 35 international awards and was nominated for an Academy Award in 2001.
Some analysis from their website:
Identity and the Cinema
Cinema enables the viewer to adopt an "alter-ago" for a while, safe in the knowledge that, no matter what happens, the film will be over at some point. This alter-ego can "slip into" one or more of the characters on the screen. In movies, identification is usually achieved by using "subjective shots" so that the viewer sees what the character "sees", thus merging with the character. A sequence of this kind usually looks like this:
A) Objective shot: The character looks past the camera
B) Subjective shot: The camera shows what the character sees
C) Objective shot: The character reacts to what he/she has seen
"Copy Shop" takes this a step further: the viewer is identified with a character, who then proceeds to lose his own identity.
1. Objective = Subjective
In the cinema, one important rule must be adhered to so that the viewer registers the change from an objective to a subjective angle, at least subconsciously: the difference between objective and subjective angles is that the one watching must never be directly visible in a subjective shot. In "Copy Shop" this rule is deliberately broken. The same shot is used first as an objective angle, and again later as a subjective angle, i.e. the same perspective can be perceived by different observers.
- At the beginning of the story "we" (objective shot) see Alfred Kager wake up and go into the bathroom.
- In a later scene "we" (objective shot) see Alfred Kager standing in the bathroom looking into the bedroom. "We" see what Alfred Kager "sees", and for this exactly the same shot is used as was used at the beginning: a doppelgänger, who looks like Alfred Kager, is lying in bed (subjective shot), wakes up and goes into the bathroom.
- In a still later scene, when there are already three Alfred Kagers, the objective view of Kager standing in the bathroom and looking, which has already been seen, becomes the subjective view of Kager observing a doppelgänger standing in the bathroom, who is in turn watching, in a kind of subordinate subjective shot, as a further doppelgänger lies in bed, wakes up and goes into the bathroom.
The first two thirds of the film give the viewer time to come to grips with the game. As long as the viewer knows who is "who", it is also perfectly clear to him/her which of the identical characters is the real Alfred Kager. It is not until the final third that the film gathers speed to such a degree that the identifications become confused.
2. The frame as a copy of the original
"Copy Shop" shows a protagonist fighting for his originality as an individual. But in "Copy Shop" not even the frames are originals; they are only copies. This is done not only to express the fact that the cinema copy is the usual kind of copy for movie theatres, but also that the frames are really and truly "copies" in the literal sense of the word. The technical realization of "Copy Shop" involved the transfer of every single frame from the digital video tape into the computer once the shooting had been finished, from where the frames were printed out on a black and white laser printer and then filmed again with a 35mm animation camera. Thus video becomes paper, paper becomes film and the story of "Copy Shop" is brought to life again "copy by copy".
3. Cinema as a copier
"Copy Shop" is about a copy centre, in other words about the duplication of single pictures which are whisked through machines (in this case copiers) at ever increasing speed. The speed of this duplication, which rises to 24 frames a second in the course of the story, represents an acoustic and optical correlation to the related process of a film projector’s operation. Kager, the hero of "Copy Shop", fights not only against his doppelgängers, but above all against the pictures that they copy and thus against the film in which he is forever entrapped.