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Video Premiere: ‘Forest of Hands’, Nick Denisov explores Synecdoche Montauk’s minimal & intimate soliloquy

Text by Chiara Vignandel

Photo credit: Anastasia Sultanova

London-based director Nick Denisov encountered Synecdoche Montauk, an experimental project by London-based, Moscow-born singer-songwriter, musician, and composer Savva Rozanov, back in 2020. Four years later, we are premiering their collaboration, Forest of Hands, an acoustic video filmed during the summer of 2023 by the River Ouse in Sussex.

From the very beginning, Denisov, the project director, was attracted by Rozanov’s unique and coherent vision of the world and his obscure and elegant, feather-light yet emotionally heavy music, as he explains to us. Rozanov, on the other hand, explained that his wish was to keep the project subtle and independent of current trends, and the convergence of a shared vision of beauty led to a successful collaboration. As Rozanov describes it, the most remarkable aspect is integrity: from inception to execution, we did not lose the essence of that beauty in our endeavour.

The cinematic, black-and-white film feels minimal and intimate, even though the music soliloquy is reminiscent of the long-ago school bullying, a deep experience shared by many of us. 

The title itself, Forest of Hands, ironically alludes to the collective perplexity of a classroom – when faced with an unanswered teacher’s inquiry.  When we asked Synecdoche Montauk how the visual side helps to drive the track’s narrative, Montauk told us that the monochromatic tone, me performing the song in proud solitude in an incredibly vast and hypnotic location, slow movement in perspective, as if in a dream – all of this significantly amplifies the emotion of the song.

The location choice of the Ouse Valley Viaduct is particularly remarkable, thanks to its historical connotations. Known for its ornate design, it is considered the most elegant viaduct in Britain. Renowned for its remarkably unique acoustics and metaphorical qualities, it is both a physical object of connection and a metaphorical marker of bygone centuries and nations. According to Montauk, the hypnotic architecture feels like a temple crafted by nature, and it turns the whole experience of the video and of the song into something deeper, like a confession.

Watching the video, it is clear what Denisov means when he quotes Jean Cocteau: Film will only become an art when its materials are as inexpensive as pencil and paper. The visuals of Forest of Hands are simple yet powerful, and the strong lyrics trace the story, accompanying the viewers inside and making them part of the story while keeping them at a safe distance. The music, like an ancient lullaby, and the charismatic presence of Montauk do the rest. The chemistry between the two artists is clear, and everything falls back into place in a beautiful collaborative piece.

(Media courtesy of the artists)
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