Let In The Air

in 7th Odessa International Film Festival

by Alexey Gusev

Paul Klee once described the process of artistic creation thus: the artist takes some phenomenon and analyses it. During this analysis he dissects the phenomenon in order to reach its essence. Then he organizes his work according to the number of sections. Of course, it sounds like a simple plan, but quite difficult for a job description. Firstly, because the above-mentioned number of sections is hard to calculate, you need to have a flair for the essence, an intuitive feeling, like an ear for the music – in short, you need talent. But there is a second point, too: very few modern artists understand that artistic method and essence of the material must be equal in measure. One half makes a single (or at most two) sections and hopes to discover instantly the whole plenitude of reality; the other half, on the contrary, makes as many sections as possible, with a lot of stylistic ploys, only to tell some plain and scanty idea. Of course, such inadequacy is found in the first instance among beginners and particularly among young filmmakers. But the first paintings or poems are not necessary smaller than mature works, and first films are usually shorts; at the short distance this inadequacy is generally much more obvious and therefore an impediment. But if there are adequacy and balance in a short film, it instantly stands out from the others. One could call the effect as “harmony” or “symmetry”, or use some other beautiful and lofty word; I would like to call it “elegance”. Especially if these sections work not only as joints, but as some kind of ventiduct, too, and form a well-proportioned structure as well as allowing freedom of understanding. The impression of such a film could be compared to some feminine silhouette full of grace and exility; this elegance is akin to air. Iryna Tsylik’s short film Home (?i?) is such an elegant film.

Its plot is quite simple. A couple is on the run and hides in a hut somewhere in a wilderness; but it’s a hut only from the outside: inside it’s a well-furnished city apartment, with exquisite statuettes, refined chairs etc. Scene by scene, they enter and leave their habitation: every time they are outside, it’s a hut, their clothes are poor and shabby; and every time they are inside, it’s an apartment, and their clothes are graceful and beautiful. At last, a troop arrives (the plot has some specific historical background, but it’s not vital), a skirmish takes place outside the hut – filmed in one long and complicated shot –, and the couple perishes. But then they still peacefully sit in the city room, and the troop enters the hut (this is the first time we see it from inside as a hut) and finds there only desolation without any trace of human life. There is not even an angel who would proclaim something like “why do you look for the living among the dead?” Although that angel could well be there.

One can read the film as a parable about inner and outer lives; one can interpret the end as a happy one (they are alive and away from the aggressors) or as an unhappy one (they are dead and the apartment is just a memory of a dream) – depending on the meaning of the word “fact”; one can consider the historical background as important (the film is a metaphor for a specific period from Ukrainian history) or not (the troop and the pursuit are just generalized images), and so on. All these possible interpretations are not the result of vagueness (as is usually the case); on the contrary, they stem from the delicate structure that positively defines everything that has to be defined and leaves the rest at the discretion of the viewer. It’s not just about a sense of rhythm and colour, acting, the logic of decoupage – though all of that is present here in quite a perfect way. The point is the delicate equilibrium between what to say and what to conceal: the amount of air that is let into the film’s narration. The artist doesn’t have to show us the framework s/he found, the skeleton of the phenomenon; quite often it lies beyond any possible aesthetic scope. The artist doesn’t have to show us the sections s/he makes – they belong in his/her workshop and are not assigned a profane look. The ultimate result lets us know – or feel – the accuracy of the artist’s work. It’s the air we breathe which the artist lets in while dissecting reality; the air that permeates the silhouette of the film and makes it elegant.

Edited by Birgit Beumers