Cinema Touch and its Connection to Nature

in 17th Sevilla European Film Festival

by Alberto Vandenbroucke

Alberto Vandenbroucke analyses the textures that are subliminally omnipresent in cinema as seen through a selection of films in the program at this year’s festival.

When you visit a film festival there is always a theme that covers a large part of the films you see. It does not always have to be an explicit theme with an intention from the organization committee of the festival, but sometimes our minds simply find a pattern that is only present in us. From November 4th-12th, 2022, the Seville Film Festival took place, an event in a southern Spanish city that brings together many of the best European films of the year. Furthermore, if there is one thing that characterizes this date on the Spanish festival circuit, it is the diversity of its programming, with sections and films that demand something more from the viewer.

In my foray into this festival, the theme that has flown over the films I have seen has been textures. When the movie screen immerses us in the cinematographic world of a specific author, we do not expect to use any sense other than sight and hearing. However, sometimes small phenomena occur in which other senses are part of our experience. In my case, I have a special connection with touch. Films transmit textures, either because of the camera with which it is shot or the elements that are in front of the lens.

The Russian filmmaker Alexandr Sokurov surprised us in the Official Selection with a film that brought us closer to a graphic texture. Fairytale is a little story in which the most powerful men of the 20th century meet at the Gates of Heaven. The setting of this sacred place is presented with the tradition of pictorial cinema of the typical Italian quattrocento renaissance. Amongst the smoke, Sokurov shows us the great problems of the Europe of the past, which is not far removed from the Europe of the present. “Make sure your lights and shadows blend without lines or lines like smoke,” Leonardo da Vinci said about the Italian technique.

From the graphic texture we go to the analog texture, something that is much easier to find in the cinema. If Pietro Marcello had already made us fall in love with the analogical grain of Martin Eden (2019), how could we not do it now with a film like Scarlet (L’envol)? In this film it comes to life more than ever and we can see a grainy texture that evokes the land, the work, and the humble. In addition, it is not trivial that one of its main characters obtains economic benefit through his hands, which are robust and rough and represent the hard-working workforce of the town. The roughness of his hands and the recording create a special texture rarely seen like this in a movie theater. Moreover, it is impossible to forget one of the scenes present in Marcello’s film, in which he makes Jacques Demy’s cinema his own and approaches the musical genre by having his protagonist sing one of the most beautiful songs while bathing in a lake. This lake looks like gold due to the reflection of the sunset that blends with the water to give a feeling of absolute peace.

But if we have to talk about a texture film at this festival, then that is Afterwater, which tells the story of a lake with all the mythology that surrounds it, presenting us with the ecosystem to which it belongs. Humans and nature merge to give rise to a world in which the present, past and future converge. Here the water takes on another dimension. The crystal clear lake envelops the human bodies and the nature of the forest. A human mass stirs in the water, enjoys the touch of the moss, and drags itself through the mud. It is a film that connects bodies with nature to reach a state of perfect calm.

Between the water and the mud we also find the texture of the film The Dam (Al-Saad), in which Maher’s character works with his companions making bricks on the edge of the Merowe reservoir, a hydroelectric project on the course of the Nile as it passes through Sudan. Through manual work (like the character of Scarlet) and his fusion with clay (also present in Afterwater), Maher lives his process of liberation through the creation of an immense clay figure that will come to life as an African Golem. The rain that will end up melting the monolith, leads us to understand the violent course of nature and a country on the verge of collapse. The shit-evoking molten mud is nothing short of the nastiest texture of my movie week.

Alberto Vandenbroucke
Edited by Steven Yates