It’s not easy to make a good documentary film about an artist. In the case of Evelyn Schels’ Georg Baselitz too little distance and too much admiration leave too little space for an unbiased audience approach. In the case of Marina Abramović: The Artist is Present, we are basically watching Abramović perform herself, which makes Matthew Akers’ and Jeff Dupre’s film portrait an entertaining PR-vehicle for the artist, but not an original documentary film.
The humans are watching something. It is not quite certain what they are watching, but as they are drawing and looking at their object in art class, highly concentrated, it must be a model. It actually is a model, but what the humans are drawing is not a person, not a live model, but an animal. A stuffed deer is their model, and this brilliant exposition already tells us what this film, Bestiaire, is all about: producing images of animals.
Appearances are deceptive. The star of this film, the Alps, has been photographed and painted countless times, its images have been reproduced, and its postcards have become a cliché of the postcard genre itself. Over the years, the Alps have become a construction and a fantasy, a wish and a projection of our desires. It is shocking to realize that what we have been taking for granted is not quite what it seems. Hannes Lang’s amazing feature film debut, Peak, suggests: The Alps don’t exist anymore.
When we buried my grandmother’s ashes two months ago, my four-year-old niece asked my sister how it was possible to fit grandma into a baking oven. The entire ceremony, though a sad farewell, opened my eyes to the absurdities that we face when it comes to death. Or rather, to how death seems to be the last great taboo in the society in which I grew up.
Imagine a film with very long shots. Imagine a film that doesn’t follow a clear story line. Imagine a film without reverse shots, without a commentary, without an exposition or a conventional interest in building up tension. Imagine that film to be set in Bulgaria. At night. Mostly inside an ambulance car. Imagine that film to be one of most exciting films of the year so far.