Technological advances have always left their mark on film history. It happened with the introduction of sound, the use of color film, the invention of lightweight audio equipment, and it is happening again now with 3D movies, large formats, and virtual reality film. It is certainly reasonable to have a few reservations when it comes to how much these new technologies can contribute to film, but in recent years we have seen a few examples of these technologies leading to interesting contributions in the world of cinema.
When we put on a pair of 3D glasses before the lights of the cinema are dimmed, we normally expect that we’ll soon be seeing dramatic battles, grandiose, epic fantasy worlds and a tangle of effects thrown in our field of vision. On the contrary, Wim Wenders – whose 3D film The Beautiful Days of Aranjuez had its North American premiere at Toronto International Film Festival – opens his work with quiet tableaux of empty Paris streets, slowly approaching a house in a green space outside the French capital, while Lou Reed’s “A Perfect Day” is playing on the soundtrack. Once at the house, Wenders lingers over nature. The camera moves around the treetops. Wenders wants us to pay special attention to the nature that always surrounds us but that we tend to forget in our modern civilization. The three-dimensional camera brings the leaves closer, the branches reaching out to us. The wind creates movement. Most of all it is perhaps this wind that we see.
In the garden, a pavilion is revealed. Here we find two people, a woman and a man. They are involved in a dialogue about love, sexuality, the body – a very sensual conversation. Inside the house sits an author who writes this story we are witnessing on a clattering typewriter while a jukebox in the corner is playing tracks such as Lou Reed’s “A Perfect Day.” The woman in the garden pavilion talks about sexual experiences, perhaps in dreams. The man tells of a small town in Spain, a place that has made indelible impressions on him. These are essential words. The body and the light in this world are one.
Wenders takes an effect that is normally used to create the spectacular and the thrilling and instead he uses it for another purpose. He seems to aim at an intensified realism, creating a closeness and an intensity through the three-dimensional image. In this creation there is also an interesting change of perspective. We are offered a slightly different way of viewing reality that makes our eyes see other details and to notice the world in a different way. In this three-dimensional exploration of the world we experience touch, an embrace almost, and it gives us a love for nature, an appreciation that might be what Wenders is trying to achieve. Because of this gentle atmosphere it seems more dramatic and disturbing when the film comes to a close. Darkness descends over the garden. The summer, and maybe the world, disappears.
The Beautiful Days of Aranjuez (Les beaux jours d’Aranjuez). 2016
Director: Wim Wenders
Producer: Paulo Branco, Gian-Piero Ringel
Cinematographer: Benoît Debie
Cast: Reda Kateb, Sophie Semin, Jens Harzer, Nick Cave
Edited by Michael Sicinski
© FIPRESCI 2016