Mirror, My Beautiful Mirror

in 54th Gijón International Film Festival

by Jean-Max Méjean

The 15 films in official competition of the magnificent 54th Gijón Film Festival do not all endanger the image that cinema can make of the human being. On the contrary, thanks to their good demeanor and their great aesthetic and humanistic sense, they tend to give some hope to a humanity losing points of reference and values. However, whether in competition or in other sections, it should be noted that here in Gijón, as in many other festivals, the way we are watching movies is changing. It is not uncommon, and not only in Gijón, to see glowing screens of mobile phones in the once ironclad night of the movie theatre. At one festival, I even saw spectators watching a second film via their portable device, while I watched the film that was intended to be shown on the silver screen. I even saw worse at the Villa Medicis in Rome, where a great art critic was giving a lecture about Il Caravaggio and the invention of photography. In the audience, while the critic was showing on the silver screen some reproductions of paintings of Il Caravaggio with stills of Pasolini’s films, I noticed the blue faces of four girls in the front row. Like fireflies, they were watching their phones right under the speaker’s nose.

The cinema must of course account for this play of mirrors, this perpetual mise-en- abyme from one screen to the other and this superpower of images that would not make our world look out of place in the most kitschy science fiction movies ever imagined in the 50s. In Gijón, the section “Géneros Mutantes” showed Nicolas Wending Refn’s The Neon Demon, which highlights the danger that can occur in the minds of modern girls who buy into the myth of beauty at all costs, image for the image, multiple screens and anorexia. Matteo Garrone, in a tribute that was payed to him, had already exploited anorexia up to madness in 2003’s First Love (Primo amore). In the official section, the film Glory (Slava) by Kristina Grozeva & Petar Valchanov, which won the FIPRESCI prize, shows the influence of this modernity in a former socialist country, Bulgaria, which is invaded by corruption, the dominance of communication and the malign invasion of telephone screens as tools of domination and power.

In this invasion, let’s not forget television screens, whose supremacy is no longer in doubt, nor the internet, which permits radical Islamists to recruit young girls via social networks, as can be seen in Layla M. by Mijke de Jong and especially in Heaven Will Wait (Le ciel attendra) by Marie-Castille Mention-Schaar. What is also important to know is that Daesh has put in place a whole film strategy to make their propaganda movies just as good as gore films, except that here it is the horrible reality that is staged and filmed. But it is especially in the magnificent and masterful film by Danis Tanovic, Hotel Europa – based on an idea by Bernard-Henri Lévy – that the complexity of the mirror screen is given in all its complexity and its perversity playing both on the appearance and the doppelganger, in this hotel where the war in ex Yugoslavia was violently set. Fake characters, an actor playing the role of a French politician, an interviewee who has the same name as the archduke’s assassin, Gavrilo Princip. And surveillance screens, mirror, glass doors and espionage, everything is in place to trap human beings and their freedom.

An excellent festival that gives an image of the mirror that cinema holds out to the world multiplying it endlessly to show the world but also to try, who knows? To transform it. Now, almost everyone can become a filmmaker with a small cell phone and everyone can see the world in their own way. What will the cinema be like in 2116?

Edited by Amber Wilkinson