The Fast of the Forest
“Anything can be dramatic,” says one, with a dismissive shrug at his own significance. “But one human life is not.” Director Lotta Petronella would beg to differ.
If there’s a storyline at the heart of Home, it is directly rooted in the cosmological; the filmmaker has made a true and honest work about madly elusive matters, including self-worth, self-reliance and the existential self. The great gray expanses she shows, and the oceanic void that seems to exist just off camera, suggest melancholy, a quality mentioned several times in the course of the film. (One of the subjects defines it as the feeling one has in the process of losing something – as opposed to sadness, which is the feeling of loss). But what’s being felt by these men also seems like nostalgia – a yearning for something one might never have known at all, in this case a place in the world that is solid and settled and, as the title implies, home.
How the subjects express themselves, while roaming the forests, killing a seal, plucking a bird or cleaning a fish, is made eloquent by Petronella’s style, which involves regularly shooting her subjects from behind, the figure within the frame always moving forward, face and destination unseen and sometimes unknown. She places her men in an always suggestive proximity to their environment: Intended or not, one snow-suited subject, wrestling himself out of a hole in the ice, gives a credible impersonation of childbirth – a newborn sprung from a world in which temperatures are rising, ice is disappearing, terra cognita is being deformed/destroyed and everything familiar is melting away.
Home. Somewhere. may be more a movie about the environment of the mind than the world, but its regard of the ecology cannot be overlooked.
The sea and sky are Petronella’s indispensable confederates, but so are Lau Nau and Micke Nyström. Nau’s music suggest the mournful cry of the drifting human soul; Nyström’s sound design is an intoxicant. Together they elevate the entire experience of Home. Somewhere. and provide invaluable assistance to Petronella in achieving her goal: Elevating the anonymous and unsung, and ennobling their search for meaning. Documentaries seldom attempt anything so simple, or hope to achieve so much.
Director: Maija Blåfield
“Experiencing a mystery,” says the voiceover in Golden Age, “helps us to perceive the world beyond the obvious.” The “obvious,” in the case of cinema, has always started with the frame: We accept what is inside it without much question, which is what we’re “supposed” to do: What the filmmaker wants us to see — and hear, and live through, and absorb — is tightly contained within the same kind of optical limits that have defined, and confined, works of visual art since ancient French people kept their horse drawings limited to the walls of their caves.
With her amoeba-shaped mini frames and mash-up of sources – footage shot between 1998 and 2013, left over from who-knows-what, and shot who-knows-where – the director Maija Blåfield takes a crack at expanding the frontiers of visual interpretation, while putting perception itself under a microscope. If every still photograph is a narrative, what are the tantalizingly context-free snippets of visual stimuli that Blåfield gives us? They’re disarming, for one thing, and – being, as they are, combinations of incongruous images and explanations – implicitly untrustworthy. But do any photographic images deserve our trust? Thinkers such as Susan Sontag, and filmmakers such as Errol Morris have concluded that the answer is “not entirely.” Blåfield makes the question cinematic.
The images of Golden Age are also an invitation – one that cannot be turned down, or even resisted — to speculate about what is outside the perimeter of Blåfield’s contorted pictures — and alongside them, behind them, and in the minds of the people we meet for mere moments. In turn, we examine why it is that we see what we see in the way that we do.
It’s a human inclination to read things the way they make sense to us, to bring presumptions and expectations and biases to pictures and to make conclusions, despite whatever evidence there might be to the contrary. Are the donkey tenders whom Blåfield shows in one clip – a clip suffocatingly limited in what it reveals– speaking French? Is it even their voices? Is the whole thing a mock-up? Is the woman on the bed, talking in lofty philosophic terms about how we see what we see (“everyone knows everything … but hopes, desires and fear hinder us from seeing this knowledge…”) being dubbed accurately (or, more provocatively, subtitled accurately?) Are the tourists who stop and take pictures of a broken-down group of farm workers (who may not be farm workers any more than the photographers are tourists) created a narrative that comfortably fits with a guilty First World view? Have the mini-stories created by the very possibly disconnected visuals, narration and implications created a whole new universe of meaning?
Golden Age makes everyone an artist, willingly or not, because it forces on its audience a new way of seeing, and interpreting. It’s a documentary, but one whose beauty – and story – is in the eye of the beholder.
According to Anderson, the films in the New Finnish Documentary Films series strenghtened his view of Finnish documentary film. He says: “Many great Finnish docs that deal with sociopolitical issues are made outside Finland – you see it from the films of Pirjo Honkasalo through last year’s DocPoint hit, Pixadores. At the same time, when Finnish docmakers work inside their own country, they tend to look inside the Finnish soul, making intensely personal films about identity and national character. The purpose of Critic’s Choice is to assist in the international distribution of Finnish documentary films by gaining prominence for them already during their domestic premiere. More expansive reviews of the films chosen will appear in international film publications over the coming spring. This was the first time that DocPoint included the Critic’s Choice section.