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The Chaos of the Universe, Contained in a Watch

Nov 27, 2018 | 831 videos
Video by Marie-Cécile Embleton

The filmmaker Marie-Cécile Embleton had just moved to London when she stumbled upon an octogenarian’s repair shop tucked away in a corner of the city.

“I was taking a photograph of [the shop owner] on an old medium-format camera when a man turned up and started talking about watches, time, and the universe,” Embleton told The Atlantic. “He was intriguing and had such a beautiful face and presence about him.”

The man turned out to be Faramarz, an Iranian British watchmaker. After listening to him discuss his work, Embleton resolved to make a film about him. “I saw real beauty in how his craft reflects his way of life, being, and philosophy,” she said.

It took patience to gain Faramarz’s trust. “I was definitely entering a very private world,” Embleton said. “He’s a very solitary person.” After six months of getting to know each other, Faramarz agreed to let Embleton film him.

In The Watchmaker, Embleton’s short documentary, Faramarz waxes poetic as he fixes watches he’s salvaged from a local market. (“I have to take all of the neglect out of it,” he says.)

“I love how he speaks about the care required to revive timepieces, drawing metaphorical parallels between watches and humans as vehicles for time,” Embleton said. “In the film, he hints [at] the fragility of life and the integral part we all play in our own practices—in affecting everything and everyone around us.”

It’s evident that repairing watches—and the practice of horology itself—is cathartic and meaningful work for Faramarz. The film’s extreme close-ups depict the delicate precision he lends to his craft. In interviews, the watchmaker describes how his work has informed his deliberate way of life.

“You look at the sky and universe … everything is chaotic and just all over the place,” he says. “But everything is exactly in its right place.”

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Author: Emily Buder

About This Series

A showcase of cinematic short documentary films, curated by The Atlantic.