VIS FICTION & DOCUMENTARY: The Origin of the World

VIS FICTION & DOCUMENTARY: The Origin of the World

June 4, 2017

The Cult of the Form

Walking around Vienna on 2nd of June of the year 2017, a random image appears: a gay couple kissing at the Landstraße U-Bahn station. Their love seems desperate, strong and audacious. One of them is going away, his other half is staying. We can frame this shot in our mind, intentionally emphasizing the pathos. In their particular love we can isolate the general artistic representation of the love purified.

Nearby, on the Obere Viaduktgasse, there is a graffiti on the side of train tracks. Concisely, its message reads: “ICH! ICH.” The unknown author found his “Ich” and shared it with the world. Just like our mental shot of the moment of tenderness between two people in love, this meld of the visual with the textual is perfect. This is art – it is vibrant, alive and casual – as it surprises the unwilling and unwitting consumers. It is all around us, waiting to be recognized, unearthed and displayed to the potential audience.

 

On the same day, art also tried to manifest itself in the VIS programme block called “The Origin of the World” – a part of the Fiction & Documentary competition. Unfortunately, this attempt was mostly unsuccessful. Lacking any real emotions or impetus, three quarters the screened films developed a cocoon of “decent hoch art” hoping to protect themselves from the real world and real consumers of art.

The first film of the block, titled Perfect Darkness (Maaike Neuville, BE), follows two lovers walking through a wild landscape, a man and a woman. She is pregnant but her companion might not be the father. As she informs him of this possibility, he disappears, only to later reconnect with her in an unexciting and cold sexual encounter.

Sexuality, particularly inhibited one, is the main theme of another film in this program block – La peu sauvage by the Canadian filmmaker Ariane Louis-Seize. This fiction film brings to the attention of the viewer the secluded life of a young girl. She lives in her apartment, watching the outside world pass by. Slowly, her animalistic side starts to manifest, seeping out of the walls that surround her like a second skin. She becomes a predator and goes out into the night to consume her prey. Super Taboo (Su Hui-Yu, TW), on the other hand, is a film that deals with the issue of pornography censorship. After the first part in which an actor reads a pornographic story aloud, the film is mainly composed out of non-narrative sets of scenes in which various actors engage in sexual acts.

 

The main problem of all of these films is their detachment from the emotional and also their tendency – to say it bluntly – to take themselves too seriously. Although the film form achieved in these films is nearly impeccable, it cannot hide a strong impression of neediness which seeps out of these works. They need to be viewed as serious art, but in this superficial passion for simple recognition, what is forgotten is a focus on the subject matter or the impetus that forced the film crew to embark on their journey of making a film in the first place. One cannot help but ask him or herself if this impetus even ever existed.

Quite unlike these films, Campo de Víboras (Cristèle Alves Meira, FR/PT) definitely had a lot to say to its viewers. It focuses on Lurdes, a middle-aged woman who is drowning in the squalor of the boring rural setting. She obviously feels that she is destined for something more, but – her youth long gone – she is forced to take care of the undead body of her all-pervasive mother. Like a ghost, the mother haunts the house and her unhappy daughter. The evil that is born from this despair only seems natural and logical.

Decadent, gloomy and perverse, but somehow weightless form-wise, this movie finds art in its depressing surroundings and pushes the essence of this horror under our noses, whether we like it not. This is the main element that marks a difference between Campo de Víboras and the other films screened in this competition block: it manages to involve its viewer and convincingly convey some very complex feelings. And in this block, it strongly contrasts and thus even further reveals the timidity and impotence of other three films that do little more than faithfully partake in the cult of the form.

Dinko Štimac
dinko.stimac@gmail.com