August 7, 2017

“The Universe Is A Very Quiet Place” – Reflections by Aryan Kaganof on a film by Dick Tuinder.

Filed under: dick tuinder,film as subversive art — ABRAXAS @ 12:08 pm

Is it a film? What tangent of the cinema as we knew her, as she died, is Tuinder going off on here? Self Portrait of the 20th Century of a Brain seems to me to be a footnote, an epilogue, to a kind of cinema that has simply died out. Become extinct. Drained away. Tuinder has constructed a memorial for cinema, a burial ground of sorts, a tomb.

Tuinder the film maker is not concerned with the kind of uninventive ontology that has made Bela Tarr so tedious to watch for a decade now; although I mention Tarr because Tuinder shares with the sour Hungarian a mournful and utterly inexorable championing of the molto adagio, a tempo it must be stated, that only grandmasters can play without losing our attention these days; by grandmasters I mean Ashkenazy and Beethoven, I mean Johnny Hodges and Ellington; and as of now, I mean Dos Santos and Tuinder.

Tuinder films in the language of parables. All sacred writings contain an outer and an inner meaning. Behind the literal images lies another range of meaning; another form of knowledge. This knowledge has been lost to the cinema (some would say she lost this knowledge when she learned to speak).

Tuinder rescues for the cinema that recourse to what is intuited at, what is ultimately only known, in silence. Although Dos Santos has contributed a marvellous score which is a classic of minimalism, the incessant repetition of a bell tone that we distantly recognize from Schnittke (Symphony no.4) but the grave, repetitive cadence of this note lends the film a gradually swelling monumentality until we are confronted with a cinema that has literally evolved out of the miraculous bell of the final scene of Tarkovsky’s Andrei Roubliouv.

The question arises: why is this sacred bell cast in a misleading form? Why doesn’t Tuinder simply tell us what he’s trying to say, simply, in so many words/images? I am convinced that the idea behind such a sacred cinema is to convey a higher meaning than the literal images/words contained, the truth of which must be seen/experienced internally. By this I mean that Tuinder has made a psychological film. Not the pop psychology of Syd Field’s “plot points” that virtually dominates all discourse on the medium these days, but a psychology that Tuinder has allowed to grow from the seed of his own psyche, even his brain.

Ordinary cinema, and by that I mean the pulp of special effects and digital blah-blah that is called cinema now, is not the correct starting place for a way of seeing into Tuinder’s twentieth century. One would be better served by exploring Lumiere, by negotiating Murnau. Tuinder is a classicist, but a very sorrowful one. Tuinder’s cinema has proved mortal. She has died an inelegant death, she has been shot off, literally expelled from the stage that is not even a screen anymore.

Mata Hari dances one last time and as the Brain ends with her rifle shot induced assassination, the curtain falls on a kind of cinema that simply is no more. Frans van der Staak is dead. Marguerite Duras is dead. Kurt Kren is dead. Tarkovsky is dead.

But Tuinder is not dead. Thus we speak, and speak we must when it comes to our attempts to understand this unnerving rupture of cinema that is his Brain, of a possible inner evolution of the cinema called “re-birth”.

Tuinder’s epilogue, his mortuary which was conceived to bury a century which was her century (the cinema’s) now turns out to have been more than an obituary notice. Cinema cross-pollinates with digital art in the matrix of a computer-generated cosmology that does not understand banality, that refuses ragingly, any attempt to banalify what is unique, special, disturbing, enchanting, organic. Remembering Adorno’s dictum “the real betrayal is exactly that banality you were expecting” and remembering that in the psychological teachings of the Gospels, a man is not to be taken as what he appears to be, but as what he most deeply is; I say to you – make a point of finding Dick Tuinder’s Portrait of the 20th Century as a Brain, make a point of watching it twice, three times. In this silence that you find haunting yourself, Mata Hari’s words (the cinema’s voice) will resonate in the slowly decaying tones of a solitary bell, “the universe is a very quiet place.”

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