Appearances and Disappearances By Matthieu Chéreau

in 24th Reykjavik International Film Festival

by Jacques Matthieu Chéreau

Being a festival goer is not always easy, in the sense that you often have to deal with the very same kind of cinematographic tricks, and you are even more sensitive to it. Most of the time, they are supposed to add more rhythm, depth or complexity to the films. But most of the time they seem a bit obvious or awkward. Glue, by Alexis dos Santos and Flakenberg Farwell, by Jesper Ganslandt use grainy images to capture in a nostalgic way the daily life of some boring teenagers, as if it was necessary to have such a formal style to mask the vacuity not only of the narrative but also of the artistic project. It could be called the Sofia Coppola’s syndrome, that tends to be widely spread. Another well-known trick consists of adding small vignettes and go for the choral film, with its crescendo, its acme and final explosion: Shortbus is stereotypical in this regard and a bit annoying in a way, given the tricks it uses are very obvious and heavy. Finally, Hotel Harabati (De particulier à particulier) by Brice Cauvin uses a very French trick that consists in mixing somehow fantastic and psychological dramas. The two characters did not spend their holidays in Venice, and yet their photos show that they did. This trick adds some confusion to the narrative, and makes everything even more doubtful. It is nonetheless a very artificial means to make the film more opaque and dramatic. Many French films like La Moustache and Lemming use it, for the worse most of the time. Fortunately Brice Cauvin offers us a few images that give to the film its reason: a mother and her children lying and laughing on a carpet, a husband looking at his wife, while she takes a shower. All a film needs is a reason, a few shots that make sense and crystallize the desire that made the film possible.

What I like in Reykjavik is that sense of desire and necessity that animate the Icelandic artists. I have that feeling (maybe as a foreigner) that entertainment doesn’t make as much noise there as it does in most of the western countries. On the other hand, there is not much to do in Reykjavik expect create and experience art in its various forms. I found in Reykjavik and its film festival a great appetite for art and a true sense of dialogue between its multiple forms. This is what is so amazing about this city, small and yet extraordinary alive, to the extent that music plays a significant role in its vitality.

I watched an interesting Icelandic documentary, that is called Act normal, by Ólafur de Fleur. It tells the story of a monk who once lived in Reykjavik, and then decided to become normal, to have a wife, a job, etc. For him, being normal meant disappearing. No one was looking at him anymore, he had became invisible. Maybe Iceland was the only place where he could have done that. There is so much space here, that you can get lost at any time. There is just space. Iceland is all about disappearances and appearances: you see nothing, and yet you can feel that everything around you is constantly moving and living: you can hear some sounds, see some elusive lights, and then it’s gone. I like to think about Icelandic art and films in terms of pure events and epiphany. “The sublime is now” Barnett Newman used to say , and I think it definitely suits Iceland. I still remember those shots in Noi Albinoi, when the main character looks at the sea. The contre-champ shows the sea and the mountains. It gives no answers, but in a way it is the answer. Iceland is so full of lights, and cherishes darkness so well, cinema is at home there, no doubt about that.