Challenges of discipline
One Take Film Festival, November 14-16, 2003, Zagreb
A section of ’one take’ films on this festival fulfills Bazin’s ideal of film as a recording (enregistrement) of what is in reality captured in front of the camera. But, such a recording is revealing, it comes across, i.e. catches the ’accidental’ in the world, and displays to a typical view what was hidden or neglected. Film offers viewers a field for re-viewing, in the sense that these films demand meditative, relaxed, and unburdened abandonment to sensations and moods. One wing of this approach — ’conceptualist’ — implies that before film is screened, main ’concept’ is established — basic procedure, such as for example, a camera is fixed before a chosen scene and it records everything that occurs in its field of vision and hearing (Endart 2, Auditorium). Or, the author chooses one fairly simple viewpoint and pursues it to the end of the film (Glenn Miller 2000). Such discoveries, in creatively fortunate cases, present revelations in Bazin’s sense of the word, both of reality and personal observatory sensibility, which particularly applies to Tomislav Gotovac’s Glenn Miller 2000. ’Concept’ of the film is simple: a drive on a roundabout of a carefully chosen crossroad in New Zagreb. The camera onboard a track pans hectically, while we witness 20 minutes of sunset and lighting of the first city lights. Ivan Ladislav Galeta picked out of his Endart cycle the episode with the snails — Endart No. 2. In this almost micro photographic, four-minute long sketch, the slowness of snails almost seems like it has been additionally enhanced on film, while the contrasting quick shifts of their antennas identify repressed but elaborated dynamism of the snails’ relationship. Auditorium, a six-minute long ’waiting’ study by Steven Eastwood was also excellent.
It often happens in life that an accidental mood, inspired moments, or a casual junction of random, meaningless opportunities result in a deep and memorable experience. For the same reason, artists came to the idea to offer happy recordings of such moments to the public, without the need to place them in a particularly important and specially organized film context. In Powerless by Paul Lloyd Sargent, the author pedals out in the middle of a lake somewhere on the Canadian border and comments on the things that come to his mind, mixing intimate notes with political context of the unexplained black out in large parts of the USA. Another interesting work was a ’diary-travelogue’, a personal note Porto Torres by Tatjana Božić and Vjeran Pavlinić, as well as the relaxed, gentle Evening Prayer by Vlasta Žanić. In one-take films, which are in most cases continuous registration of speakers narrating their stories, much depends on how engaging their narration is, but above all, how interesting their appearance is, along with the visual atmosphere they help creating and the way they talk. An excellent work in this sense was Željko Radivoj’s Rubicon, in which filmmaker and performance artist Tomislav Gotovac, in his ritual, intensively engaged manner speaks about his historic performance in which he walked the centre of Zagreb naked. Radivoj continually keeps a close up on Gotovac, occasionally consulting him on the current circumstances of the shooting, while everything is permeated with the ’given’ atmosphere of a cloudy day, rain and the background traffic. A System for Writing Thank You Notes by Neil Goldberg is a splendid anthropological study in which we observantly listen to an old man in order to obtain the picture of one type of behaviour and experience social institution standing behind it. Seven-minute long narrative film Voice of Silence by Gunnar Bergdahl was noted for excellent performances of its actors — it is a penetrating socio-psychological study, and even more so, an emotionally strong experience, almost on the verge of documentarist espionage of the darkest corners of human relations.
Another section of one take films from this festival uses a shot as combinatory space, for example, as a synecdoche which uses limitations of the shot and its duration as instructions for reducing the recording on a strict, often bizarre, detail that should enable us to grasp, not just the wider context of the scene, but also wider (or indirect) implications of meaning. Particularly worthy film of this stream was Myeyeye by Riccardo Iacono, focussed on a detail of a walking man’s ear. Film forces us to acknowledge visual richness of ’common details’, but at the same time keeps a clear suggestion of the wider surrounding. Much stiffer variants of this approach were Photo Finish (Yosi Artzi) and There (Jean Counet) — both were shot skilfully, but with a primitive goal. Another pole of this combinatory were metaphorical films, for example, excellent The Sleeping Girl by Corrine Schnitt — opening shot of a ship model motivates the possibility of interpreting the scene of the whole settlement as a model, however, when the observing point moves into the house (and focuses the picture), we hear the answering machine. Less successful works were symbolically trivial Another Day (Ofer Ben Shabat) and The Musical Chairs (Marc Tobias Winterhagen). One take also works well for ’catching’ continuous shows in their unique performance, such were, for example, interesting works like Nothing ever Happens Twice (Andrea Božić, Adnan Hasović) and High Noon (Silvestar Kolbas, Igor Mirković, Tomislav Gotovac). Conceptual jokes and sketch films are frequent with such limited forms, like Elke Karnik’s Never Judge a Man by his Umbrella, Full Nose (Johanna Reich-Zeigenthaler) and one-minute film Wind in the Back (Motvind, Trond Artzen). Among films that are trying to overcome limitations of one-take films, a particularly challenging task is that of feature length film, so that only such film in competition was Real Time (Fabrizio Prada). A complex crime story was even more demanding than renowned Sokurov’s Russian Ark, but with all the impressive technical skill, artful planning and effort, the final result was nevertheless comparable to routine action films. Most of the members of the jury have, however, decided to award this film with the grand prix. Initial decision of the jury to award the grand prix to The Musical Chairs (not a one take film) makes much more sense when we take into account that selection committee and the jury watched a different version of the film, a one take version, while the version screened in competition did not satisfy strict festival criteria. This means that the organization must control the copies even after the selection and the jury have done their part.