The Unexpected Beauty of a Suspended Moment in 'Sub City Paris'

By Kasia Cieplak-Mayr von Baldegg

The Sub City series explores the wonder in the humble experience of exiting the subway through dreamy slow motion and elegant steadicam cinematography. New York-based filmmakers Sarah Klein and Tom Mason talk about the inspiration for the project and where they'll film next in an interview below. 

The Atlantic: What was the inspiration for the Sub City series?

Sarah Klein and Tom MasonThe Sub City project started with our artist/designer friend Jennifer McClory's interest in that moment when you emerge from underground into the bustle of the city above. Each exit we make from the subway is also an entrance into a unique little world. For many of us, that moment can be disorienting, crowded and sometimes frustrating -- a time to put our heads down and to just endure. But we began to think about the beauty in that mundane act -- in that movement from the grimy dark of the subway to the street above. By filming that moment and slowing it down, we realized that we could notice and appreciate the city and the people that give it its unique personality in a way that's hard to experience in real time.

Does the public transportation system of a city somehow characterize a city, or the people there?

We definitely noticed that subway systems, like cities, have really unique personalities. 

In New York, we'd emerge from this loud, dirty subway to a street full of people, traffic, and movement. As if in that moment, all of the elements of the world were trying to go somewhere at once. It was almost hard to believe that the act of leaving the subway could reveal such beauty in the edit, but it began to make sense to us. This city, like the subway, is so wonderful because of that crazy brew of energy. 

In Paris, the trains are smaller and quieter. As you leave the stations, the iconic Hector Guimard art nouveau arches and shelters are like frames on pieces of art.  We would emerge to find men standing there smoking cigarettes as if they had been already enjoying that scene for hours. It seems like Parisians already know that their city is beautiful, and they're asking you to admire it.

Is this an ongoing series? Where will you shoot the next installment?

We definitely want to make another one of these shorts. We would love to shoot Moscow, Hong Kong, or even Washington DC. We are also very open to suggestions. We are hoping to do an installation series with these at some point -- they look great projected in a large space.  

Check out Sub City New York here.

For more videos by Sarah Klein and Tom Mason, visit http://redglasspictures.com.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/video/archive/2011/09/the-unexpected-beauty-of-a-suspended-moment-in-sub-city-paris/245247/