The Secret Story


16mm film (color) (1996); 8:30 minutes

Music composed and arranged by Dick Connette; vocals by Sonya Cohen.
Sound montage: Janie Geiser and Dick Connette

“The Secret Story arose as a response to several beautifully decayed toy figures from the 1930’s that were given to me as a gift.  These figures, and other toys, objects, and illustrations that I found from the period between the world wars, suggested a kind of unearthed hidden narrative which I have attempted to re-piece together, as if these figures were the hieroglyphics of a just-forgotten tongue.  The Secret Story revolves around the central figure of a woman, and her girl-double, who look  somewhat like a versions of Snow White, and also, strangely, like my mother as a young woman.  She wanders through landscapes of rivers and floods, home and war, memory and illness, culminating in an ecstatic walk in the forest, suggesting both the dark and cathartic trajectories of the richest fairy tales”. —Janie Geiser

“Geiser’s film …creates a child’s vision of domestic immersion and foreboding out of crudely articulated antique dolls, toy blocks, and paper cutouts.  Against a photographic backdrop of a floodbound house, figures of mother and daughter exchange symbiotic knowledge of household routines, tasks, or games …  Recurrent images of a doctor and a nun, along with shifting veils of color, evoke a condition merging physical illness with spiritual floating.  the “secret is never spelled out, the degree of emotional affect generated by or around Geiser’s expressionless objects is compelling.”-–Paul Arthur, Film Comment

The Secret Story was chosen by Film Comment’s Gavin Smith as one of the Best Short Films of 1996.

Selected Screening history:
New York International Film Festival (1996)
Museum of Modern Art, one-person screening (2001)
Chicago Filmmakers, The Secret Story: Films by Janie Geiser  (2004)
Cinema Project, Portland; The Emotional Lives of Inanimage Objects, 2004
Women Make Waves Festival, Taipei (2005)

Janie GeiserThe Secret Story