Shaping the Chaos of Daily Life

in 12nd Sevilla – Festival of Euopean Cinema

by Bruno Hachero Hernández

As a viewer, going through a section of Seville’s European Film Festival as combative as unorthodox as Resistencias constitutes an experience that somehow reconciles you with film in a country so in need of fresh air on their screens. These movies constitute the best selections of the year in Spanish film production, all of them emerging from the margins of an industry that, it must be said again, is cowardly and bored of itself¬.

Among the ten works in Resistencias, one of the highlights was the monumental film that has obtained the FIPRESCI award: Transeúntes by Luís Aller. The Catalan filmmaker, teacher and critic has been shooting his film for two decades, crimping over more than 7,000 shots in a frenzied montage that weaves together stories from the streets of Barcelona to speak, finally, about a particular experience of the world, the city and modern life. Filmed in 35mm, returning to the tradition of city symphonies that disappated (and practically ended) in the wonderful ’20s, Aller approaches the film constructivism to place the various narrations in a fragmented world in which all lives are mixing with each other. Like Carax did in his recent Holy Motors—also screened and awarded in Seville—Aller seems to be collecting all of his obsessions, lost ideas and intuitions into a kaleidoscopic film made with the collaboration of different generations of filmmakers and technicians. Transeúntes is a monumental film work unprecedented in Spain.

Aller himself spoke about the idea of chaos and the “illusion of uniqueness” that we insufflate to each of our days, based ultimately on fragments that the film aims to show through the work on the editing table. Cinema is a way to diffuse the veil that our perception imposes on the chaos of the real. Transeúntes was made by returning to a working method that was common durign the silent era and has since almost dissapeared: shooting part of the film, editing it, and shooting back from it. With this way of working, it is the film itself which guides the filmmaker.

In his film-searching Aller intercalates visual gags, little stories that suddenly find a strange reverse-shot that moves to other characters and plots, sketches of a deeply political humor, uncertain morals, small fragments that seem to document urban life… All of this is inserted into a Godardian montage that imbue images with all kinds of counterpoints: songs, texts, missed answers, voices of reporters talking about distant wars and endless input that forms this symbolic chaos in which each of us lives, more or less anesthetized. The borders blur between shots, the montage is able to build its own discourse that crosses the stories and images without trivializing them, without breaking their autonomy and strength. On the contrary, in Aller’s film images hit, flashes and are combined into a kind of anti-raccord, constituting an intense and exciting experience for the viewer who beholds it. An experience that finally comes to talk about how our lives are organized from the uncertain transit . “So that happens, so that passes by, that I am,” a character says.

Vertov, Ruttmann or Godard’s heritage is palpable and obvious, but Transeúntes takes this hybrid style into a stimulating fusion with narration, political humor and more refined gags that not only retrieve an almost lost cinematic experience—I find it hard to imagine this movie on a small screen, it’s one of those films that naturally belongs to the cinema theater, cinema as an inmersive experience¬—but seems to talk to us about the gestation of a contemporary world in which it is not the stories that shape us but, rather, we ourselves are the ones who live in a constant fragmentation that is increasingly problematic and interesting.

Edited by José Teodoro