Our lives are but a blip on the face on the earth, yet to us it’s all the time we have

“We’re just an interlude between ice ages”. From its opening statement, ‘A Scale for Hurt’ makes us feel like a speck of dust. This magnificent little short is an international collaboration between Australian filmmaker Julia Siu-Yin Ngeow and New York writer Leena Soman Navani. Based on Leena’s poem by the same name, ‘A Scale for Hurt’ utilizes digital video, Super 8 film and found footage to curate a nostalgic collage. Juxtaposing the fragile transience of childhood with the monumental span of the geologic eras.

Pippa Dauven

Our lives are but a blip on the face on the earth, yet to us it’s all the time we have. When we take a moment to stand back from ourselves, to see all the events that have occurred over millennia leading to our existence, it is truly mesmerizing and inconceivable. We are so, so small. Life comes, and life goes. Earth nurtures, and Earth destroys.

The film explores limitations in our ability to perceive the vastness of time, contrasted with the smallness of our own lives, as well as highlighting the delicate interplay between humanity and our natural world.

‘A Scale For Hurt’ explores the question: How can we comprehend a scale that is so much bigger than us – one that is far too big to feel?

Leena and I originally met to collaborate for the Visual Poetry Project 2020. We filmed in my hometown, Perth, in January, and I arrived back to New York just before Covid-19 swept the globe. All of post production occurred remotely during lockdown back in USA, with the team spread between Virginia, New York and Massachusetts. Due to these Covid-challenges we didn’t complete the film in time for Poetry Month in April, but we’re very happy to present it to you here today!

I have a fascination with impermanence, and the idea of finding comfort within the inevitable transience of not only ourselves, but everything around us. The probability of you or me existing is just 1 in 102,685,000. Knowing this gives me a renewed sense of gratitude and tenderness for each moment.

I was originally drawn to Leena’s poem as it touches upon that childlike ability to deeply experience what’s in front of us, yet simultaneously be so aloof to the bigger perspective of existence. During our youth, there’s only the now, that moment, under a magnifying glass, whilst the expansiveness of time remains out of our grasp. Childhood is transient, and so is life on this planet.

It’s becoming more and more apparent that our species is facing an uncertain future

In a broader sense, it’s becoming more and more apparent that our species is facing an uncertain future. In 2020 wildfires burned 3 million acres across California, and 46 million acres in Australia. Covid-19 has killed over 1 million people globally, and sea levels rise at a rate of 3.3 mm a year. A third of the carbon dioxide pumped into the air by humans is trapped in the oceans and as it dissolves it turns the oceans acidic. In the history of our planet, there have been 5 mass extinctions, and there’s growing evidence that we could be facing a sixth. Our time here on earth is limited, but that idea is hard to fully perceive. What would the universe be like without humanity?

Despite the devastating premise, the film’s beautiful poetic tone turns this into a transient voyage. And with the help of Julia Siu-Yin’s direction, the film becomes pure cinematic magic. Young actress Pippa Dauven stars as the imaginative little girl, whose whispers bring in childhood nostalgia. Mischa Ipp sets the intimate vibe as she voices the narration.