Category Archives: Cinema/ Movies

Building Ingmar Bergman’s cathedral…

  • People ask what are my intentions with my films — my aims. It is a difficult and dangerous question, and I usually give an evasive answer: I try to tell the truth about the human condition, the truth as I see it. This answer seems to satisfy everyone, but it is not quite correct. I prefer to describe what I would like my aim to be. There is an old story of how the cathedral of Chartres was struck by lightning and burned to the ground. Then thousands of people came from all points of the compass, like a giant procession of ants, and together they began to rebuild the cathedral on its old site. They worked until the building was completed — master builders, artists, labourers, clowns, noblemen, priests, burghers. But they all remained anonymous, and no one knows to this day who built the cathedral of Chartres.
    Regardless of my own beliefs and my own doubts, which are unimportant in this connection, it is my opinion that art lost its basic creative drive the moment it was separated from worship. It severed
    an umbilical cord and now lives its own sterile life, generating and degenerating itself. In former days the artist remained unknown and his work was to the glory of God. He lived and died without being more or less important than other artisans; ‘eternal values,’ ‘immortality’ and ‘masterpiece’ were terms not applicable in his case. The ability to create was a gift. In such a world flourished invulnerable assurance and natural humility. Today the individual has become the highest form and the greatest bane of artistic creation.
    The smallest wound or pain of the ego is examined under a microscope as if it were of eternal importance. The artist considers his isolation, his subjectivity, his individualism almost holy. Thus we finally gather in one large pen, where we stand and bleat about our loneliness without listening to each other and without realizing that we are smothering each other to death. The individualists stare into each others’ eyes and yet deny the existence of each other.
    We walk in circles, so limited by our own anxieties that we can no longer distinguish between true and false, between the gangster’s whim and the purest ideal. Thus if I am asked what I would like the general purpose of my films to be, I would reply that I want to be one of the artists in the cathedral on the great plain. I want to make a dragon’s head, an angel, a devil — or perhaps a saint — out of stone. It does not matter which; it is the sense of satisfaction that counts.
    Regardless of whether I believe or not, whether I am a Christian or not, I would play my part in the collective building of the cathedral.

    • Four Screenplays of Ingmar Bergman (1960)

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His movies inflict this kind of an acute emotional and spiritual pain that no other sort of celluloid reality is able to do…

It asks for a consideration – is it one’s personal predisposition that makes an individual so vulnerable to the artist’s emotional roulette; or is it ‘just’ the common human feature – that one strives for empathy and compassion identifying with the characters, and always at the expanse of his/her inner equilibrium?

But Bergman is not dancing any genius yet cruel vengeance dance – or so we are bound to believe in … He is building a ‘cathedral’ out of our ‘common’ human clay – the space of some transcendent sense of things… All by carving a piece of art/a movie – a ‘dragon’s head, an angel, a devil’ from the frozen avalanche of our emotions…

Little invention here, little help there; a sacrifice and the apparent brotherhood of tens working arm in arm with the same irrational aims in minds…

Here is the re-building of wonder and awe, here is the struggle to create, the pain to re-connect human beings with themselves and with each other…

But – prosaically speaking – here is also the sweat, the mud, the aborted ‘ego’s and the nearly lethal fatigue….

Here is the artist’s way…

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Inspired by I. Bergman’s ‘Autumn Sonata’

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Contemporary Art (9) Nathalie Djurberg

Nathalie Djurberg (b. 1978 BirthLysekil, Sweden) – young multimedia artist, lives and works in Berlin. She has won the Silver Lion for a Promising Young Artist at this year’s 53rd Venice Biennale. She was awarded for her multimedia installation “Experiment” (above – first photo shows the work still in progress).

Gothic, rich, visceral and provocative work of this girl could not to leave any mark on the viewers’ collective and individual consciousness. I met people who hated it, yet still remained under its dark spell respecting the way this artist had teased their common sense of civilized, dignified beings.

Djurberg’s theater of absurd – devil’s Eden of huge, colorful wax vegetation was seasoned with caves of screens where the true drama of life, lust, violence and death went on over and over again. Sounds were those of some tribal ‘mysteria’ inter-weaved with some primordial  sub-resonance of deep earthy tones which went on creeping into one’s unconscious. Child-like fascination with this chaotic, pre-rational microcosm battled with one’s impulse to treat the entire spectacle as pure fiction, a theater performance with no or little valid reference to the ‘real’ life outside that extravaganza…

Nothing more deceptive… Djurberg’s worldview is hyper-real and indulgent in parts – indeed – yet it’s much more realistic in its portrayal of the human nature and the Nature in itself than many works of so-called ‘Realism’ in art, where polite and dull landscapes or family portraits were given to the public as the ‘truthful’ depiction of life and man…

‘It’s a strange world’ and ‘Owls are not what they seem’… Let’s Breughel’s, Goya’s, the Romantics and the Surrealists’ dreams go on …


Where you can find me (Whilt 19)

Remember this one of my series – Whilt – What Have I learned Today?

Trying to come back to it – little day-to-day discoveries of a starry-eyed kid, which lives in me (despite my daring attempts to evict it) and within all those interesting people I’ve met.

I followed that link – contemplating a personal story of a man close to me I bumped into that movie: “Into the wild” – loyal portrayal of a real drama of Christopher McCandless – a top student from a privileged background, who – bitterly disappointed by vanity and hypocrisy of his parents, by mindless brutality and shallowness of his society drops out of the picture trying to reclaim shattered identity and personal integrity. He does it through an impossibly romantic, extreme means of going into the wild of Alaska, living only from the land-resources and in a total isolation. Being only 24 and after two years of his adventure Chris dies out of starvation in his adopted ‘home’ – a wreck of a green bus. That bus in itself becomes a destination for dozens of McCandless’s followers, his uncompromising choices in life are being interpreted in equally extreme fashion – from glorifying the ‘hero’, who had to paid the highest price for an attempt of a noble self-discovery, to scolding the ‘spoiled, egocentric’ kid.

One of the most poignant discoveries this run-away’s parents had made was, that he didn’t want to be found. One can save someone who is temporarily lost, or help the one, who plays hide-and seek game out of lack of confidence or confusion or pain, but not the one, who makes a conscious decision of ‘disappearing’ from your life. Thinking about that I started to approach this question if I, indeed, want to be ‘found’ in this very wilderness of the Internet reality. Energy and dynamics of the Web-World acts as ever-expanding multiverse – once you lose the track of its actual demands and nature – you share fate of a micro-organism completely lost somewhere in a vast vacuum of a Tropical Forest. And it doesn’t matter, if your performance here is of a poor or great quality; or of any importance to humanity in general… who really bothers after all…

Here are the online services, where you can find me, except of this site (obviously) – join and use the fun of Facebook (my name: Katarzyna Skonieczna), where you can quickly connect with those you know, check the latest ‘what’s up’ with them, compete in various (deliciously childish) games and share your thoughts the moment you think them… Twitter (my name: skonieczna) is another, very immediate and natural way of sharing your online experience, you simply answering the one and only question: “what are you doing?’ – what are you doing right now – share the article, you’ve just read; picture you’ve discovered, new web-site, follow people, who make it all more fascinating and inspiring… There is where you can, if you want to – find me – the moment I will dare to disappear – you will be one of the first to know…

P.S.

Enjoy thoughtful song from ‘Into the wild’ above. Eddie Vedder signs ‘Society’. More about the philosophy behind this movie, which, I believe is worthy to explore – in my next posts


Multiverse (M) Theory and a tower of tortoises…

Featured above is the first of five parts of the BBC documentary: “Parallel Universes”. So-called ‘M’ (Multiverse) Theory in physics has been circulating in the air for some time now. Being still a big gamble and a hypothesis per se – one can be actually surprised that is being served by the BBC as a sort of a new ‘Decalogue’ to believe in…

To state my point of view – I’m quite impressed (who wouldn’t be…) – the sheer visionary power, actual and theoretical potential and imaginative flair of this new-born piece of science is simply entrancing. Einstein’s biggest dream of constructing the Theory of Everything – at once beautiful and working, seems to live on and evolve in interesting, unforeseen directions.

At the same time I have in mind the funniest first few sentences of a great scientific book, I’ve ever read. Stephen Hawking in his “A Brief History of Time” starts his explanations from an anecdote:

After Bernard Russell finished his proud lecture on the spherical nature of the Universe, he had to face a point of view of a little old lady, who said: This is all rubbish. The world is really a flat plate supported on a back of a giant tortoise. Russell asked with a superior smile: But what is the tortoise standing on? And the little old lady replied: You are very clever, young man… But it’s the turtles all the way down!

And Hawking challenges us further in his uniquely reachable, crystal-like prose (actually, it’s so casually understated, that I remember double checking, if my book was an original “Hawking” and not the simplified version):

Most people would find the picture of our universe as an infinite tower of tortoises rather ridiculous, but why do we think we know better? What do we know about the universe, and how do we know it? (…) Some of the recent, breakthrough answers may seem as obvious as the earth orbiting the sun – or perhaps as ridiculous as a tower of tortoises…Only time (whenever it may be) will tell.

Is the enchanting ‘M’ Theory that tower of tortoises, or is it the Holy-Grail of science finally found? I can’t assess it scientifically, but from an artistic point of view this concept of physics alone dwarfs a big chunk of the conceptual and postmodern ‘philosophy’ as formed and portrayed by artists – actually, it makes it appear as intellectually ‘lazy’ or simply pretentious, lacking in the visionary impact and, recently, quite impotent to generate any sustainable, innovative ideas… A. Einstein defending fiercely his freedom of imagination, which is ‘more important than knowledge’ (as he stated), S. Hawking or Michio Kaku – the devil’s advocate of ‘M’ Theory – they all present themselves as being much more, in much profound way… artists than many professionals within the fine art field I can think about…

Around 4.26 minute of the video presented  Michio Kaku beautifully dances on ice  talking about his childhood dream to take part in Einstein’s quest to link and explain everything in the universe… what an evocative metaphor of both – an artist and scientist condition…  Being a visionary and a dreamer, yet a risk-taker and a skillful performer at the same time… Sliding on the thin ice, exposed and vulnerable, yet – pushing the laws of physics in order to find even greater sense, balance and beauty…

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The remaining parts of the documentary:  (2) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=atiLNT… , (3) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-4UVYq… , (4) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=73hkF1… , (5) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jW3OJO…

Thank you “kellyneill” from Youtube for making this available to all of us.



‘Sans Soleil’ – Chris Marker

I’m still under a spell of this movie – few days after re-watching it.

Marker’s (born: Christian François Bouche-Villeneuve 1921) vision from 1982 presented here appears as fresh, powerful, genius (I’m not afraid of this word in this case) as it must have been for his contemporaries over twenty years ago. It’s an essay- like fairly convincing cinematic statement on the elusive and transient nature of space, time, memory and culture. The social and, more generally – philosophical- observations and reflections on both Japanese and African way of life presented here are both sublime and strikingly accurate. But this artwork is much more than a clever and sensitive documentary, it’s a masterpiece – a perfectly working wholeness of the thought, emotion, picture and sound.

One cannot help asking himself: why there is so little known about this particular artist? Then I ‘google’ his name – in ‘images’ only one or two believable photographs of him appear, and I read that Chris Marker lives in Paris (or – does he still?) and sends an image of a cat , his favourite animal, when asked for an image of himself. Apparently, he is French – or is he (printed sources give two countries of birth, France and Mongolia) ? Another ‘legend’ claims that being asked of his origin he was quite sure of coming from ‘another planet’. Who can be ever sure about things like that? Watching his famous La Jetée (1962) one can only wonder: how is it possible for a human being – to make a speech-binding movie composed only of B&W stills and virtually each one of those dozens of shots is just perfect – impeccable technically, stylistically, aesthetically and in any other sense imaginable? O’ right – maybe it all sounds too good to be true, maybe I need to calm down a little – yet – it’s a scare occurrence when I don’t really want to ‘calm down’, to find distance or just rethink the whole experience. No, I want to be stupefied, bared of my critical powers and even my self-control.

One has to let oneself, from time to time, to be completely and fully intentionally exposed when approaching an artwork – to make oneself vulnerable and totally open – and just to immerse into, to experience it so deeply that it hurts- to let oneself to be hurt by an artwork – that’s just another step in self-discovery.

Or – just to listen to:

I took the measure for an unbearable vanity of the West, that has never ceased to privilege being over non-being, what is spoken to what is left unsaid.

Legends are born out of the need to decipher the undecipherable. Memories must make do with their delirium, with their drift. A moment stopped would burn like a frame of a film blocked before the furnace of a projector. Madness protects as fever does.

All women have a built-in grain of indestructibility. And men task has always been to make them realize it as late as possible.

Are you tempted to see (re-watch) more ? Then, you must be a quite spiritually healthy and mentally fit individual – and being one – enjoy!

P.S.

It was ‘valecomputadora’ who downloaded the fragment featured to Youtube. Thank you.


Master and Nostalgia

Andrei Tarkovsky’s Nostalgia (1983) is one of those timeless pieces, classical in a moment of their birth. First movie of this director to be shot outside Russia and first dealing (at least, by the title) with the intense longing for the homeland. There are numerous interpretations of this picture, one of these most self-evident is that focusing on a possible autobiographical aspect (the protagonist – poet Gortczakov as Tarkovsky’s alter-ego), but one has to accept that artworks of this caliber do escape any explanation; I’ve read few critical evaluations and each of them gave a different and more or less acceptable set of concepts as a ‘reading-key’ for this movie. What’s striking, the author’s interpretation, expressed in a brilliant documentary made on ‘battlefield’ of Nostalgia, is yet another cup of tea. Tarkovsky speaks beautifully about the complexity of the human relationships he tried to portray, that is much easier to meet someone and to get to know him/her than to forget that particular person. That we are all in a nostalgic mood because of that – because of the impossibility – firstly – to meet in truth and secondly-to keep all those, whom we are fascinated with, for ourselves.

But for us, more mortals than him, it’s the visual power of his work that keeps us under a hypnotic spell for hours. And this Russian’s imaginary abilities and sense of beauty is stunning. The more breathtaking when one watches ‘the work in progress’ – how virtually from scratches, from mud and forgotten, ruined places, carrying and setting up that old-fashioned, clumsy equipment, how battling with people and objects, light and space this artist carves out the perfectness. And only those who tried to portray beauty – in poems, paintings, movies know how incredibly difficult it is – to capture the sense without killing the ambiguity, mystery and interest. But, it is not that difficult to reject it all… You are certainly not doomed to believe in a world by Tarkovsky – that hopelessly romantic, dreamy, melancholic sur-reality of empty Roman pools, lit candles, ruined churches and misty landscapes haunted by those poor, so intensely living souls… Just like when reading Kafka’s or looking at Chirico’s one has a forceful desire to leave, to escape the created world due to the unsettling feelings and thoughts it evokes – “Tarkovsky’s tension” (as I would call it) is a quite natural phenomenon and not for everyone to cope with successfully.

That tension arises due to a demand, which genuine art makes on an individual. It’s well pointed in our master’s view of it: “The purpose of art is to help man improve himself spiritually.” It’s not to be merely consumed or enjoyed, is not to be pleasing and evocative for its own sake. I find it quite a good lesson applicable to all sorts of artistic activities. And yet another quote – on the ethics (who, on Earth, speaks today about ethics in art!) of an artist: “too many artists take their work as a special position, given to them by destiny, and simply exploit their profession. That is, they live in one way but make movies about something else. And I’d like to tell directors, especially young ones, that they should be morally responsible for what they do while making their films.” Writers should be morally responsible for what they do while writing, painters should be morally responsible for what they do when painting… What else shall I add to that…

P.S.
Fragment of A.Tarkovsky’s ‘Nostalgia’ has been uploaded to the Youtube service by “0EyeOfDawn0” – thank you. It’s only a ‘teaser’ promoting this great art and, hopefully, encouraging those, who haven’t met with the director’s work yet to do this. As with any other original material (not being my own property) I have no intention to go against any copyright law – anyone interested, please do respect the artist and buy (loan) a certified copy. Thank you. K.S.


Sokurov

Why Sokurow? :

– because he keeps Tarkovsky’s dream (and many our dreams) going on

– because he is a boundary-pusher and a boundary-breaker

– he would never let his viewers to feel underestimated

– he’s got an artist, poet, philosopher and magician’s eye (and he shares it with us)

– because he reveals by disguising and disguise by revealing

– because… you name it…

P.S.

Video above features Aleksandr Sokurov’s Mother and Son (1996). I used “ropbo” Youtube account to show it (thank you). If it is not playing that probably your have an impaired access to Youtube or your connection is poor…

Don’t attempt to watch a full Sokurov at your computer/television screen, it’s pointless. Find yourself a projector access or watch in a proper cinematic setting.


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