Saturday, April 22, 2017
It comes again to my mind why I consider Indian cinema as one of the most vibrant ones of our time. As the glory of the past of Indian cinema once appalled the dominance of a mostly Euro-centrist film historiography, it´s exciting present is often ignored by the so-called big Film festivals. Some Indian short films I saw recently reassure myself in appreciating Indian cinema which is just not very much trendy and obviously not in fashion among the majority of festival programmers but nevertheless at least as exciting as interesting than films from Iran or China which frequent all kinds of European film festivals.
Trapeze is a 13 minutes long nightmare but one of these nightmares which feel to real to be forgotten soon. At the beginning, a surreal image of a road traffic which moves backwards. A young man called Sandip receives a phone call from a friend who told him that he is is arrested for murdering his fiance. From one second to the next the world of Trapeze is split into two parallel worlds. Radio and television report without cease about violence and terror attacks. When Sandip takes a shave, a pure every day action, the sink is suddenly filled with blood. To distinguish what is imagined and what is real, becomes difficult.
There is a scene when Sandip fights with his fiancé Ipshita, if I remember correctly, about religious fanaticism in which Sandip is involved. On the surface a mundane quarrel between a couple. The violence is subliminal in this scene filmed in close ups and it is visible in the angry and almost hate filled face of Sandip. An every day quarrel between a young couple or is it already a hint to a fathomless drama? As the images also the soundtrack moves from seemingly mundane sounds to distorted and alienated ones.
Later, Sandip encounters in a cellar-like room a strange clown who seems to be in his viciousness a close relative to Heath Ledger´s Joker in Christopher Nolan´s The Dark Knight. His gestures are like an even more cynical variations of Chaplin´s “The Great Dictator. No one can escape his horrible laughter. In front of him, we recognize Ipshita´s corpse, her throat cut open.
Mundane living rooms turn into catacombs of fear and guilt, ordinary people into monsters of hate.
Trapeze is a miniature filled with old and very primary motives from the history of cinema, for example the “Doppelgänger”-motive or the split personality in the fantastic films from early German cinema, the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde-theme, but also the motive of real and imagined murder in Hitchcock´s Strangers on a Train. And like Hitchcock, the terror grows in every day objects or between every day actions. The world we inhabit turns from one moment to the next into a scary place.
The news about violence there and then invades the here and now. The recent history of violence and terror attacks has arrived the living together of what we call civilization.
The film is always most disturbing in its transitions from what we call mundane life and the nightmare mankind finally create. I refer here to an end ,a seemingly happy ending” which returns with one single cut to the nightmare again we want to escape and what the whole film is about. If we thought we “wake up” from a nightmare, we realize that we are still in the middle of it.
It is still amazing that a 13 minutes long film can be much more though provoking and affecting than all the news shows in the world. What remains, is a memory of a weird dream in which we try to hold on certainties which always blur into doubt.
Trapeze is like a shock wave. The news on violence and here the terror attacks in France finally have reached the private and more intimate space. We see Sandip often running through narrow lanes. There is no real escape and there is no real escape from the nightmare the film evokes. Last but not least, Trapeze is an exciting fusion of experimental cinema with interwoven genre-elements.
Tuesday, April 18, 2017
“The pure frank sentiments we hold in our hearts are the only truthful sources of art. “ (Caspar David Friedrich)
A few days after I have seen this film, I already begin to forget how perplexed I was on that day. It was the first time I felt confused after a film by Terrence Malick. During the days after the screening, several moments of the film came back to my mind unintentional like the film lives a life of it´s own. I read three reviews, the beautiful ones by Richard Brody and Patrick Tomassi and the more sceptical one by Matt Zoller Seitz. Paradoxically it was the sceptical review by Zoller-Seitz which inspired me to rethink the effect the film had on me. At the beginning I felt much closer to the conclusion of Zoller Seitz than to the other two rather enthusiastic reviews.
Compared with his two previous films,, the shameless underrated masterpiece To the Wonder and Knight of Cups, Song to Song has more recognizable elements of what we call narration. It is the third film Malick created without a proper screenplay. Strangely I felt in Song to Song the lack of this very special intensity of these two previous films, where the montage finally created in a magical way an own gravitation field which brings all the often improvised elements together. This recognizable triangle relationship between two musicians played by Rooney Mara and Ryan Gosling and a rich and powerful music producer (Michael Fassbinder) are in contrast with a strange centrifugal force which makes every moment even more fleeting, even a bit more fragmented than in Malick´s previous films. On the first sight – there is everything what we know from recent films by him, especially since his collaboration with this wonderful Mexican cinematographer Emmanuel Luebzki: the pending sliding movements which creates a choreography with the movements of the acteurs that appears to me almost like Max Ophüls with a hand held camera. There are also the famous over voices, an element which is present in all films by Malick but much more refined and cultivated since The Thin Red Line. This time it was often difficult to me to distinguish the different over voices/characters from each other. It was the Babel-effect or to talk with Jean Renoir the problem that “every one has his reasons” how it is verbalized in his La Regle du jeu. Literally I often had problems “to get hold” on those fleeting moments. In other films by Malick there were always several moments which immediately burnt into my memories.
But exactly in this moment of doubt I had in this film, the film comes back in little pieces to my memory like my brain was working like a ruminant. And with a delay of some days the old excitement, the strong emotions I usually feel for a film by Terrence Malick since The New World are back again.
Even though the film takes place in the music world of Austin / Texas, most of the excerpts of live-concerts or recorded songs are as fragmented than anything else in Malicks recent films. Sometimes the protagonists attend concerts not from the grandstand but from a place they look sidewards to the stage. As insiders they seem often less interested in the performances than the audience mass. There is actually a link to Malick´s previous film Knight Of Cups who takes place like Song to Song on the other side of the entertainment industry where the common audience has no access.
But even if Malick´s last two films are dealing with artists who have to deal with a business which buys and sells them - in their emotions, their memories their grieve and their losses the acteurs are as lost and lonely like the uprooted Pocahontas in The New World, the grieving mother in The Tree of Life or the lost soul Marina in To the Wonder – and finally very close to the rough, still non verbalized emotions and thoughts we have when we attend a film screening. Whenever I hear these over voice whispering, I almost can feel my own silent ones. In of of the big themes in Malick´s work, the lostness of most of his characters on their quest for identity, Malick seems to have gone with Song to Song even a step further. The collision between pain and grieve and the beauty of the world seems to be a bit more pointed. Often in Song to Song, the protagonists are indifferent to the beauty we see at the same moment on the screen.
Especially the characters who went through losses, grieve like the young soldiers in The Thin Red Line, especially Pocahontas in The New World, Mrs. O´ Brian in The Tree of Life or Marina in To the Wonder are still able to see the beauty of the world. In Song to Song we hear Rooney Mara´s voice telling: “I can´t bear to see the birds, because I saw them with you.” Obviously these words are leaded to her lover but it also implies, that she sees the world from a different perspective than us, the audience. The majestic view of a flying flock of birds we could often share in our imaginations with the protagonists in other films by Malick but not with Rooney Mara and other characters in Song to Song. They literally see a different film than we do. When we learn relatively quick the greed and aggressive possessive manner of the music producer (one of Malick´s most diabolic characters) Mara and Gosling seem to be helpless exposed to his manipulations.
There remains in me a feeling of discomfort with the film but it is very close to a film from another favorite director of mine which I admire but which also scares and distressed me in revealing a disconnected modern civilization, Yasujiro Ozu´s dark Tokyo Boshoku (Tokyo Twilight).
Jean Renoir wrote in his autobiography once about his India-experiences that he was “deeply moved how the Indians tried to touch him”. Terrence Malick is like Jean Renoir a filmmaker who celebrates the tangible and visible matter of the world and us are made of. And the spiritual and religious aspects are no contradiction at all. They are an interpretation of the world we can share or not. They seem to belong together as two aspects of the world, the nature like it is and how people try with or without success to deal with it.
The kind Malick´s characters try to touch the loved ones but also the world around them is very close to that what must have moved Renoir so much during his India-experiences. In Song to Song they try it desperate and often without avail like in no other film by Malick. They literally try to get with their hands hold in this world and sometimes they fail. But at all, emotions, mental conditions in a film by Terrence Malick are always revealed through bodies, movements, glimpse, sounds and an intensive exploration of the facets of human faces - very close to the films by Ingmar Bergman, Ritwik Ghatak and Carl Theodor Dreyer. Malick´s cinema is a big veneration for the matter of the world and the matter, cinema is made of as well.
I said it often and I say it again: the accusation Malick´s films from up to The Tree of Life are esoteric or simple religious propaganda is not only unfair but even poor nonsense and it is finally a big embarrassment of quite a big part of film criticism.
“Property, it´s all about property” (Sean Penn in The Thin Red Line)
And yes, even though a marginalia but always evident, Malicks films are not at all isolated from the social reality or social history of the world: Exploitation of human labour in Days of Heaven, war as the decline of human civilization in The Thin Red Line, the aggressive British imperialism to conquer new markets in The New World, the illusion in and the failure of the American way of Life in The Tree of Life, the evidence of hardship in Bartlesville/ Oklahoma in To the Wonder. In Knight of Cups and Song to Song there are signs of a certain cynicism of the rich and powerful, especially in how these films reveal the exploitation of the female body. Most evident in the nearly Stroheim-like character played by Michael Fassbinder whose manner finally leads to the suicide of his wife played by Nathalie Portmann, an unusual harsh explosion of tragedy in this film.
It is very fashionable, it is trendy, cool and catchpenny to ridicule the more recent films by Terrence Malick. That became recently a sport in mainstream criticism and even worse in blind and ideological motivated criticism. But it ignores or even defrauds the rich diversity Terrence Malick has given to recent world cinema.
And yes, I have forgotten that there was as well a moment which moved me very deeply and which is enough motivation to see this film again: it is the short but weighty presence of Rock-singer Patti Smith. It is a moment hardly a minute long but strong enough to be remembered until my very end and which is also a precise image for the poetry of Terrence Malick. Patti Smith talks with Rooney Mara and just this dialog between a real and a fictive person, the port between fiction and documentary alone is amazing. The elder singer tells about her late husbands, that she still will wear his ring because he was the love of her life. The younger woman tells her about her unhappy sex affair with this producer. And suddenly this little dialog turns into something like a confession from woman to woman and Patti Smith becomes an non denominational spiritual advisor which is often reserved for male priests. How the hands of these women touch each other, how Smith comforts the young disturbed woman and how she finally touches her cheeks, is a high concentration of Malick´s poetry and compassion. This moment comes always back to my mind, again and again - and there is nothing I can do about it. It reminds me in this strong and heartbreaking moment from The Tree of Life when this wonderful big black lady comforts the mourning Jessica Chastain with her huge hands. In these seconds the films reveal the whole beauty of the cinema of Terrence Malick itself. These two scenes tell me all what I love in the films by Terrence Malick, for what I have no words.
The mentioned reviews:
A Prayer for Ryan Gosling (Patrick Tomassi
Review by Matt Zoller Seitz at Rogerebert.com
Sunday, March 26, 2017
After having seen 5 films by Greek-Australian filmmaker Bill Mousoulis, I think the transitions between documentary and fiction in his films are always very thin. His new film Songs of Revolution is a journey through different kinds of Greek music, the connection between these different kinds and the history of Greece from the beginning of the 20th Century until to date. The film begins with an audiovisual collage. Different TV channels propagating the false dreams of commercials and the nightmares of recent Greek reality. The first song (Enough), a Punk song appears and we see images of manifestations. The non-filtered anger of this punk song connects with the image of the naked anger of the people. The first disturbing moments hint to a reality of people who are struggling for surviving between anger and sadness. The pseudo reality suggested by Neoliberalism and its instrument Television between political filtered information and commercials is busted.
The film introduces different kinds of music from the Remebetica (which is called the Greek Blues), the protest songs of the 1960s and 1970s, Punk and other alternative forms like Rap and and experimental music of recent times. This happens in interviews with musicians, recorded concert excerpts but also with arranged musical-like scenes. The interviews with musicians give an introduction how Greek history of the last 100 years is connected with the music as the expression of a long history of suffering from the occupation by the Great Turks, the German occupation during world war II., civil war, dictatorship and finally the most recent crisis. One can use it as a kind of orientation in this film, but how the film proceeds it will offer very different accesses.
Bill Mousoulis never really makes films just “about” something, he looks at something but often also reacts on what he sees and interacts with the people he meets. And this transition from documentary to fiction, this balancing act between fiction and reality happens sometimes sudden. There is a young musician whom we see at first working in his band. Later he offers a musical-like performance as a waiter in a restaurant.
Another musician quarrels with his parents. The dialogue of the persons are stylized like a rap song. This might be a hint to the difficulty of nonconformist musician to survive but it is also a good example for the playfulness of Bill Mousoulis who moves freely between documentary and fiction. Later we will see actors staging songs which are sung by others.
The image making devices called cinema as used by Bill Mousoulis seem always to overcome over it´s cold technical precision. Even this balancing act between reality and fiction seems rather organic than arty. Mousoulis always tries to get his “instrument” his image making devices always in accordance to these different kinds of music. Songs of Revolution is not only a great music film, it becomes often like music itself.
Among several musical-like scenes there are 5 songs which appear in the playback method. They are sung by another singer but staged by actress Marianthi Koliaki. During some songs she moves her lips, pretending to sing. During other songs she paraphrase with her whole body the stories told in this songs. Even with this cinematographic trick, Mousoulis creates an own veracity. Koliaki´s heartbreaking performance reminds me in Madhabi Mukherjee´s likewise staged songs in Ritwik Ghatak´s masterpiece Subarnarekha. The tristesse of the urban landscape where Koliaki is walking through, the synchronism between the sadness and the longings in the songs and her body language is breathtaking. It is one of these moments where the film becomes a song itself.
Another moment and a completely different stylistic approach: A musician meets a very old musician. He tells him how much he admires him and that he wrote a song dedicated to his elder idol. Than he performs the song. Even though in contrast to the staged song performances, this seemingly just documented scene has it´s own beauty and yes – it´s own poetry. It is also an example how versatile the film tries to approach all these different kind of music. The rage of scene with the first punk song in this film is edited in furious hard cuts. Other moments, especially the interviews are observant and comparatively sober. The musical scenes, the fictional element complement the other aspects and I would like to call them as moments of “magic realism”.
One of the most fascinating aspects in the films by Bill Mousoulis I have seen so far is this dynamic relationship between moments when his films are “made” and these moments when things are just happen in front of the camera. I mean an equal intensity of moments when Mousoulis uses the options his apparatus offers but also moments where he seems just recording what is in front of his camera. There is a scene when several musicians including a female singer are meeting in the evening at a street cafe. One of them introduces the other musicians to each other. Everyone brought his own instrument and soon they play music together. Even though it seems to be one of these moments which “just happened” and even though it is one of these observational moments, for me it appears like a moment of pure cinema, different than the tour de force of this lost soul personified by Marianthi Koliaki but with the same intensity.
Like so much good films, Songs of Revolution is also like a journey-experience which evokes in me so much different and sometimes contradictory moods, thoughts and emotions. The sadness, the anger, the bitterness of people who live under difficult circumstances but also their vitality appeared for less than 2 hours film in all its intensity. Songs of Revolution is one reason more to be grateful for this quite fortunate coincidence for me to get in touch with the films by Bill Mousoulis.
As the film is new, informations can be found at the Songs of Revolution-web site and at the homepage of Bill Mousoulis.
Saturday, February 18, 2017
Notes on The Inland Road by Jackie van Beek, New Zealand: 2017, Berlin Filmfestival 2017-Generation14plus
The first long film by actress, comedian and filmmaker Jackie van Beek begins with an accident.
The hitchhiking 16 years old Maori girl Tia is given a lift in a car with two men. A heavy car accident happens. One of the men dies, the other is saved by Tia. This is a film which directs the view inwards and outwards and it tells about physical and mental injuries.
Will, the man has fractures, Tia got a very ugly cut on her cheek and some light facial. The beautiful face is scarred. The other man, the one who has not survived was Will´s brother in law. After being released from the hospital, she goes to the funeral of Will´s brother in law despite her father (Tia´s parents are divorced and she ran way from home after a heavy fight with her mother) suggested her to go back home. At the funeral she meets Will and his pregnant wife Donna. As the film tells about visible and invisible wounds, two other characters are introduced, the widow of the deceased and her little daughter Lilly. The narration and the constellation of the characters arise from an accident who brings them together. Tia will spend some times in the farmhouse with Donna and Will. Donna´s widowed sister and the little girl are often visiting them. Tia, the distressed teenager and the other characters who have to deal with a loss of a family member have to define their way through life anew. Tia´s neck is tattooed with a Maori word, a memory of another wound. She is elliptical and grumpily. How the characters finally hesitantly find a way to relate to each other is revealed in this film with patience.
Here again the mighty Cinema scope format allows both, the presence of the geographical landscape where the farm is embedded but as the human landscape visible on human faces. Especially the young actress Gloria Popata (Tia) leaves a very strong impression. She reminds me in Q´orianka Kilcher´s performance as Pocahontas in Terrence Malick´s The New World and Tillotama nShome´s wonderful elliptical and androgynous performance in Anup Singh´s Qissa.
For now the characters have to go through several conflicts. Donna begins to feel disturbed by Tia´s presence. Tia falls in love with Will who rejects her feelings and Lilly slowly begins to learn piece by piece about the terrible loss of her father.
There were some moments in this film when I had the feeling that The Inland Road does not really know in what direction it shall move. But it was a hasty conclusion of mine. The film tells exactly about people who are struck by sad events and who do not really know on what road they have to continue their journey. Jackie van Beek refuses to be smarter than her characters and she accompanies them on their difficult journey.
There are two embraces, moments the film was heading for all the time. At first it is a moment when the child Lilly finally begins to become aware of her father´s demise. The inaccessibly Tia finally hugs the child with an unexpected tenderness. The second moment is when Tia one night sneaks into the bedroom of the young couple. Donna wakes up and takes her to task. The two women are standing face to face and suddenly Donna realizes the pain of the teenager. Touched by an intuitive sympathy her facial expression softens and she hugs the young girl.
Tia will return home. Her visible and invisible injuries have not healed yet but she leaves the painful stagnation behind. The Inland Road is a very sad but at the same time very encouraging film. Jackie van Beek had the courage to treat a relatively melodramatic subject in a total undramatic but nevertheless very intensive way.
19.02, Cinemaxx 3, 16.30
Friday, February 17, 2017
Notes on an afternoon at the Zoo -Palast with a masterpiece called Loving Lorna by Annika and Jessica Karlsson, Sweden: 2017. Berlin Filmfestival VIII. Genaration14plus
It is not the first time that I made exciting discoveries at the children and youth film section known under the terrible name “Generation” but a section which seems to be for me the only one in this festival which has a distinctive contour.
Another aspect of this year´s festival edition will stay with me: Except one example, almost all other films which inspired me, are documentaries. Even though all of these documentaries might have different approaches. Loving Lorna, for instance seems to be very close to the favoured documentary filmmaker of my country: Peter Nestler and Helke Misselwitz. I have seen Loving Lorna in Berlin´s most beautiful film theatre called Zoo-Palast and I feel again confirmed that documentaries belong to the big screen.
The film is a miniature of the life of an Irish working class family in a social deprived suburb of Dublin. The father is unemployed for some years and caring for his horses is his way to deal with it.
The mother suffers under epilepsy, which restricts her life in a certain way. She compensates this with her passion about books, reading, collecting all kinds of literature and bringing her private library always in a new order. The small insights in the dreams and longings of this people is filmed with big reverence. These insights are very intimate but discreet at the same time. One of their children is the 17 years old red-haired and freckled Lorna who has inherited the love for horses from her father. Her own horse is at the same age like her. She wants to become a farrier, a profession which almost becomes extinct. Her violent backache will probably prevent her from fulfilling her dream.
The film is close to the idea of André Bazin once described in his book on Jean Renoir, that “the things appear like accidental in front of our eyes and it is just a temporary privilege we enjoy.
The mother´s disease, the father´s unemployment are evident in these stories they tell in front of the camera. The “drama”, the tragedies hidden in almost every family story is here embedded in every day actions. I remember a critic writing on Yasujiro Ozu´s characters (the name escaped me) once that “Ozu´characters are to busy with life to explain themselves.”
Even though different in it´s formal approach, Loving Lorna is the second quite Ozuesque film I saw after Ann-Carolin Renninger´s and René Frölke´s wonderful From a Year of Non Events on this year´s festival.
The suburb itself is in the process of transformation. A shabby high rise apartment building is demolished. Power shovels with wrecking balls are often visible in this suburb.
When Lorna rides on her horse it appears like an anachronism. The Ozuesque love for things which irresistible disappear is present in each moment. When the last image is fading away, the struggle of this family will continue. But for this heartbreaking short time of 61 minutes we got a glimpse of this “circle of life”. Loving Lorna is a piece of more recent social history but history which gets for a short times faces, names , identities – literally bodies and souls. And these bodies and souls appear through or despite this strange phenomenon cinema which bases on a mechanical and chemical process standardized by an industry which never cared much about the art, documentary or poetry of cinema.
When the identities of these wonderful people disappear in the anonymity of the end credits, when the film takes literally it´s last breath a feeling for the transients of life stays long, long, long with me. This little masterpiece by Swedish twin sisters Annika and Jessica Karlsson I have seen on the mighty big screen of a cinema cathedral called Zoo-Palast (which enhanced ordinary life for 61 minutest to an almost cosmic event), I am sure I got a glimpse of the “lost paradise of cinema”, a term Wim Wenders once used for the films by Yasujiro Ozu.
18.02, Cinemaxx 3, 16.00
19.02, Cinemaxx 1, 17.30
a slight extended version in German can be found here
a slight extended version in German can be found here
Thursday, February 16, 2017
Notes on Maman Colonel by Dieudo Hamadi, Democratic Republic of the Congo/France: 2017. Berlin Filmfestival VII.-Forum
Colonel Honorine Munyole better known as Maman Colonel leads a special police unit which is fighting against sexual violence and which is supposed to protect women and children. After 15 years she is transferred to another region where she will face new challenges and where she has to start again. The film follows her work and her devotion for raped refugee women and abused children. In her neat uniform, as a sign of her certain power, she appears as a dignified woman in her Forties. It is hard to see a difference how she takes care of her own biological and adopted children and the abused kids she finds in the streets. She always addresses the people as “mothers”, “fathers” and “children”. About the disrupted and cruel history of this country, we learn only my the stories told by the widowed refugees. Before their husbands were killed the women where raped in front of them. Later we see handicapped and cripples men, other victims of the past. They are officially recognized as victims but instead of showing compassion for these women they doubt their status as victims. That is s sign of a chauvinism even among victims.
What distinguishes Maman Colonel from so much well-intentioned documentaries about countries branded by violence and poverty, is the filmmaker´s discreet mode to give space to this impressive woman whose personality can unfold in front of the camera. She dominates the space like a very lovable female pendant to Orson Welles. But behind her certain power, her certain authority, evident in her correct uniform and her ritualized body language according to her social and professional status , the film reveals always her real strength, that is to say her love and compassion for the poor and defenceless people. When she addresses the people she makes less use of her acknowledged authority but demands from them such good old fashioned characteristics like solidarity.
There is a scene when she and her police force free a group of children condemned as “witches” and, locked into a cabin by relatives and their community. One of the children shed tears. With her huge hands she wipes the tears from this tiny face. This tender gesture is a small but memorable moment and it seems to tell about both, the attitude of Colonel Honorine and the filmmaker. The kind Dieudo Hamada gives space for the things unfolding in front of his camera reminds me a little in one of the basic ideas by late French critic André Bazin, the confidence that the things in front of the camera will unfold as if by themselves.
There is a beautiful example for Hamadi´s attitude – yes and let me again stress the wonderful German word “Einstellung”, a word which includes the technical term as well as the term a”attitude”. Colonel Honorine is sitting on the right side of the frame at her desk. Three women sitting in front of her in a slight lower position on a bank. At the first sight it looks like a classical composition suggesting a social hierarchy. Even more unusual, this moment seems to be on the surface one of very few really volitional sequences. But than one woman hands over a bunch of bank notes to Colonel Honorine. It is a donation for the traumatized refugees and children, Maman Colonel is caring for, a care that goes much beyond her professional duty as a police officer. From one moment to the other, the hierarchy in this image is dissolved. Honorine is almost speechless and touched by this obvious and unexpected sign of solidarity. This is also the dissolution of her as a representative of an abstract authority evident in Honorine´s uniform and her certain social rank. But it is also the dissolution of the certain power a filmmaker has to determine a certain image of the world. Maman Colonel is not just a film who pleads for solidarity and in a country afflicted by violence and wars. Hamadi embraces this solidarity and compassion manifested by Maman Colonel in a very cinematic way. Hamadi´s work the sensitive “musician” perfect coordinated with the “singer” called Maman Colonel.
18.02 Arsenal, 17.30
Wednesday, February 15, 2017
Notes on a miracle called Aus einem Jahr der Nichtereignisse (From a Year of Non Events) by Ann-Carolin Renninger and René Frölke, Germany: 2017. Berlin Filmfestival VI.-Forum
An almost deserted farm in Northern Germany: An old man, Willi Detert lives here alone with his cat, some chicken and some geese. He has survived his wife and he intends to spend the rest of his life here in loneliness, a loneliness which will be interrupted occasionally by visitors. With the help of a walking frame he still walks on his property for feeding the animals or just contemplating the irresistible savaging of this men made landscape. He often talks with his cat, his only companion. The part of this film which could be considered as a portrait of this very old man is very discreet if not of an “Ozuesque” respect. Beside the human landscape Willi Detert, the film includes a meditation about the landscape of the environment which marks the border of Detert´s living space but also it´s tie to the whole world. The cat is always present. Even though there are very charming moments with this cat which will warm the hearts of every unconditional cat lover (we hear the cat´s purring ans snoring), the strong presence of this animal goes far beyond a certain cuteness. It rather reminds me in the presence of so many animals in the Japanese Haikus.
The attitude of the filmmaker is sometimes evident in the things they reveal in their film. There is a moment when Willi Detert takes the cat on his lap. He caresses the cat very softly and when the cat tries to get free he let it go at once.
The film is recorded in 16 millimeter and Super 8 material, some images are coloured, others in Black and White. Sometimes even the buzzing of a camera is audible. The presence of the device which records these images and sounds is a hint to the modesty of a film which does not want to be more than giving an image of a human life. Sometimes the film turns into darkness (caused by the end of a film reel) and the soundtrack continues. In other moments there are scenes without sound. If intended or not the the evidence of the ability and disability of the cinematic devices to reflect a human life enriches the film with a strange poetry.
There is the change of the seasons visible in a landscape already abandoned by men and which will be soon reconquered by nature and the house as the evidence of the presence of men. There are a lot of still lifes shot in the rooms of this farm house. Despite the absence of men, these images are revealing crystallized traces of them. They have lived here. The perceptible decay of things which have a meaning for a human life seems to be as mortal as life itself. The hints evoked by these images might be very subtle but they will remain in my memory. The calmness of a film (which we learnt
from Japanese cinema) can be sometimes very evocative, often moving and not seldom even heartbreaking.
The presence of this old man and his animals and the awareness of these image making devices have a strange chemistry. The moments of “actions” with the old man and his cat or the fragmented stories he tells from his life are often alternated by absolute silence. How much really happened in this film on “Non Events”, I just begin to realize many hours after I attended the screening.
More than 20 years ago I once wrote on Ozu´s Bakushu (Early Summer) that “ the film (Bakushu) is like human memories compressed to 2 hours film. It is like memory itself depending on a body which has to die some day”. I was referring to the insufficient preservation of the original analog source of this film.
Since than I always see an affinity between the analog chemical process of film recording and the biochemical process of human memories depending on a living body. This idea came back to my mind after i saw Aus einem Jahr der Nichtereignisse.
The morning after I saw this wonderful film, the memory of it is still strong and present with a mixed feeling of happiness and a light indefinable melancholy. That is an unmistakable sign that I must have fallen in love with a film. There nothing more I can add for now. There is only one thing I am sure about: From a Year of Non Events by Ann-Carolin Renninger and René Frölke is the most beautiful film experience I made at this year´s festival.
16.02,Cinemaxx 4, 19.30
18.02, Delphi, 16.30