Endangered playfulness

"A Missing Self"

An upcoming Etiuda&Anima Film Festival screening of “A missing self” made me revisit this project. I've realized that it suddenly acquired a new and disquieting dimension:

Its seemingly light and playful action took place just a few years ago: a Japanese performer, who wished to be anonymous, sought her “Polish self” by placing around Tokyo “a missing person” posters with her face. I decided to follow with the camera because I found it intriguing pondering of the limits of our personal borders and identities.

Now, in 2015 yearning for creativity and exploration, for self exploration clashes with fear and aggression. The EU immigrant /fundamentalist/nationalist crisis pressures us to retract into our cultures, to strengthen our born identities, to seek power by separating ourselves from others.

Are we going to allow madmen to define ourselves by limitation, scarcity and separation? Are we going to take power from coiling in or from expanding? Is our missing self within or outside? The very worst would be to arrive at the conclusion that nothing is missing.  It would be the worst because hubris is always severely punished.  

So although “A missing self” is only a rough sketch I am glad I did it and hope to further explore its theme in a larger form.


Two Electras?

Persona by Ingmar Bergman, 
the first appearance of Electra (Liv Ullmann)

The second appearance of Electra
(Bibi Anderson?)

In Persona, Bergman uses two shots of Elisabeth Vogler acting on stage. The first comes early on when Alma is told about her new patient.  The second appears at the end when Alma, alone, leaves the house on an island.

I’ve been conducting a Bergman films analysis class several times already. This fall one student upon looking closely at the two shots proposed that in the second shot it is Alma (Bibi Anderson) and not Elisabeth (Liv Ullmann).

Such an interpretation would make perfect sense out of the film’s ending which puzzled many for years. Is it possible that Bergman planted such an “key” to understand his film and never revealed it? Is it possible that nobody (nobody!) noticed it since the release of Persona in 1966?

Of course the idea that Alma and Elisabeth are one is banal by now, and some have said that it could be all happening inside the Alma’s psyche, but never have I found the proof of it in the actual “double casting of Electra”.

Check it out for yourself comparing the screenshots above.   


What do movies show?

"Black Widow", directed by Bob Rafelson

I’ve re-watched “The Black Widow”, which is one of my favorite film noire flicks - mostly because of Theresa Russell. Then I found a 2006 interview with Bob Rafelson. Although he spoke there about directing fighting scenes he said something that resonates beyond a fight choreography: ”The audience doesn’t want reality.”

This given, what does an audience want? Escapism, visceral thrills and narcotic forgetting?

Or maybe the audience wants the reality beyond the everyday of banal, fast and superficial.

This beyond could be achieved either by giving them “more of the same”, usually with stepped up intensity, which camouflages for something different. Or the “beyond” is pointed to by intimating that there are ways to deconstruct (sometimes fancy and pretentious words are just right here when you need them) our matrix of learned behavior and perception. I prefer the latter.


What does exist?

"Demon" directed by Marcin Wrona

Ever since I saw his film debut “My Blood” I wanted to write about the talented Marcin Wrona. In his first film he seemed to be wonderfully mad and also technically very competent. His next film “The Christening” was strong, self assured and disquieting. Then came his final picture called “Demon”. (Wrona died during a film festival, officially it was a suicide in which I simply don’t believe.)

IMHO “Demon” reaches the world class level. The elegance of the craft makes the viewing a very powerful spacial and auditory experience. The storytelling is serious and yet displays measured moments for laughter. Its structure is solid and yet open enough to spill its content outside the frame, so that the meeting between a viewer and the screen can continue long after the screening.

The film tells a story of a mystery and does it in a mysterious way. All requirements for the  kicks of “I am scared by the horror” or “I see him quoting from famous films” or “I understand his voice in social/historical debate”are there. At the same time there is a feeling that the film is more than the above.

SPOILER: In the finale of the story the domineering father of the bride (the real demon?) tries to put a spell on the weeding guests convincing them that nothing happened and that they didn’t exist, as he doesn’t exit.

Unfortunately the local contemporaries of Marcin Wrona took this hypnotic suggestion to heart and ignored the movie.

I would love to see a next Marcin Wrona film. And so I am waiting for him to re-appear.