Totally on Fire | For Stuart Croft
Totally on Fire has at its genesis a real experience recounted to me by my father over the past 30 years. My Dad’s story is from a journey he took to California in the late 1970s, during which he found himself at the gates of the Esalen institute on the cliffs of Big Sur, Highway 1. Here he encountered a game of naked volleyball as an experiment between a group of residents.
The Esalen has come to symbolise a place to unwind and to ‘self develop’, which itself developed organically out of the counterculture of '60s California. The atmosphere at Esalen, both real and imagined, acts as a binary to the impulse of prosaic capitalism; that we must work hard, all of our lives, and we must do this in blind faith of a sense of pay off at some unknown future time. The Esalen now situates itself somewhere between the holiday retreat and an esoteric spiritual sanctuary.
Totally on Fire is a conversation across time and restages the original game in the grounds of a secular community in Oxfordshire called Braziers Park. The film pivots around a search for something immaterial. The tension lies in the fact that the actors/players communicate through the act of shared perception. There is a sense of collapsed time in which they loose themselves in a group expression, underpinned by the original Esalen game.
The cultural phenomenon of the game acts as a model to examine trust and intimacy. It makes visible a commitment to connect with others by the literal stripping away of props.