"If I think about the future of cinema as art, I shiver" (Y. Ozu, 1959)

GLITTERING FILMMAKERS - By The Time It Gets Dark + The Dreamed Path (A. Suwichakornpong, Angela Schanelec)

Saturday, 19 November 2016 14:40

James Lattimer

Fragments I-II

 

I.

How to make sense of so many glittering fragments? It’s the pieces that suggest a narrative which catch the eye at first. A film director invites a famous writer to a country house so she can record their conversations and turn them into a script, there is talk of what makes a writer, of motivation, of the alive versus the mundane. Sometimes the action slips back to the writer’s experiences of the past, to political discussions, to banners being unfurled, to a single hand suspended in the air that lingers for a moment in the dark before exiting the frame. And then there’s the story of the actor, if you can indeed call it a story, it’s more like a set of observations, some perhaps from life, some from work, flights between locations, city traffic jams, hotel rooms in the early morning, music video shoots. In the scenes at the tobacco processing plant, he’s only one of the many carrying out the process. They cart around the leaves, hang them on frames ready for the oven, and remove them once they’re brown and brittle, once they resemble mushrooms left to dry in the warm air. Mushrooms can always sprout here when you least expect it.

 

There’s no convenient glue to hold the pieces together, no simple overarching structure, no easy points of reference. Perhaps it’s the pieces that don’t appear to lead anywhere which actually hold the key, the moments which convey feelings more diffuse, like the sensation of noticing a sign on the highway and realizing you could follow it. When the director catches sight of a boy in the forest and starts to pursue him, she only ends up running into herself; when you begin to engage with the things around you, you begin to engage with yourself. As a child, she could move objects with her mind but such abilities never last, it’s not easy to discover that unbelievable things can happen and still leave no trace. Perhaps all directors are just frustrated telekinetics, if you can’t move objects with your mind, you can at least move images, even if both have the same habit of slipping through your fingers.

 

Perhaps that’s where we should be looking then, at the smallest pieces, at the individual images, of which there are far too many to recount: winding roads with unclear destinations, mould blooming in a petri dish, the patterns that emerge when hair is cut close to the scalp, a tropical bird captured on a piece of old film. There may seem to be little connecting them, but they’re hardly random images, they’re images that have been deliberately made, shot on the camera like the one we see the director use to record the writer’s testimony, graded in a studio like the one where we see saturation levels being adjusted, put together from endless invisible bits and bytes that re-manifest once the whole screen collapses into glitch. When we see the black and white photographs of the students at the beginning of the film, we are not yet ready for them. We see the agonized gestures and fear that they hold, we see they stem from a reenactment and we can guess what is being reenacted, but we are not yet ready for them. The writer later talks of seeing the image of people being burned, how do you even grasp something like that? She talks too of watching other images pass in front of her, powerless. There are images and there are images. What do you call a stream of images passing in front of you?

 

 

II.

The Time It Gets Dark  + The Dreamed Path (A. Suwichakornpong, Angela Schnalec)How to make sense of so many glittering fragments? It’s the pieces that suggest a narrative which catch the eye at first. It’s 1984 and a man and a woman are on holiday in Greece, they even have names: Kenneth and Theres. They busk in the sun, there are tourist buses and political banners, there is talk of the promise of the new. A telephone call brings news of an accident and the couple departs, soon to go their separate ways. In England, Kenneth must care for his sick mother; Theres gets a job offer in Berlin. They are apart but they are equally weary, when they lie down on the ground, it’s because they can’t go on. And then there’s the story of the actress in Berlin, the new Berlin, if you can indeed call it a story, she’s just as prone to stretch out on the ground without warning, when she wanders across film sets or through her everyday life, it’s like she’s sleepwalking. Perhaps the dream of the tropics is her dream, or that of her daughter, who’s also in danger of being sucked into the general torpor, in spite of the swimming lessons and football practice. At one point her husband leaves, at one point Kenneth and Theres reappear, laddered stockings, a bloodied knee, a shoe left behind on the platform, all just so many shards, like the slivers of glass left behind on the floor of the library after the display case spontaneously shatters.

 

There’s no convenient glue to hold the pieces together, no simple overarching structure, no easy points of reference. You look to the dialogue in vain to fill in the gaps, it’s clipped, jagged, it doesn’t explain, it seems to consist purely of questions and answers that could be repeated at any moment: “Where are you?”, “Are you tired?”, “I don’t know where to put myself”, “Is she dead?” Time is just as unhelpful, it passes differently here, some situations pass in seconds and others seem to last forever, while the gaps between them can equally run to days or decades. Time anyway seems to leave things unchanged, bodies, clothing, the number of people streaming in or out of a country, nations bruised and fragile, the quality of light in the forest. When the actress talks about the inevitability of loneliness, perhaps that’s what she’s referring to, the realization that you can move from one place to the next, you can try to be someone else, things can appear to happen and the years can pass unheeded, but the sense of stasis will always remain.

 

But though there is stasis, movement still takes place, although the emphasis is on individual motions rather than their cumulative effect. Perhaps that’s where we should be looking then, at the smallest pieces, at the individual gestures. The aspect ratio directs the eye towards the centre of the frame and focuses the attention on all the actions being performed there: the fingers that linger on door handles and banisters, the money put down on a table that is exchanged by a bottle of morphine, the hands that place one more vase of dead flowers on the trolley before wheeling it away. When life unfolds as a series of mute actions, they slowly merge into different articulations of the same thing, as if breaking up chocolate were no different from administering an injection, as if grasping distractedly at a piece of streamer with your toes were the same as wiping your hands on your shorts. But some gestures do hint at an escape from repetition and listlessness and perhaps the task here is to pick them out of the flow, although they still carry no certainty, transcendence is a concept for someone else. Maybe when the boy enters the pool unaided to swim freely, it’s a victory. Maybe when the girl licks his knee, it’s acceptance. Maybe when she’s kicking the ball and the final cut comes, she actually never stops.

 

 

Read 285 times
Rate this item
(0 votes)

- Questo sito utilizza cookies, anche di terze parti, per migliorare la tua esperienza e gestire la tua navigazione in questo sito. I cookies necessari al funzionamento del sito sono già stati installati.Se vuoi saperne di più o negare il consenso a tutti o ad alcuni cookies, consulta la Cookies policy.

  Accetto i cookies da questo sito.
EU Cookie Directive Module Information