(Untitled) Morning [Ruxandra Mitache, Switzerland, 2018] /// How Can I Tell You? [Barbara Creutz, Fr
With slow-moving close-ups the camera ponderously studies blades of grass and petals of lavender underneath a singular, droning musical note hovering hypnotically in glass-like textures. (Untitled) Morning begins in monochrome and slowly blends into colour, the lavenders repeatedly blurring in and out of focus. Mitache manages to capture the minutiae of the flowers’ movements as the air softly moves around them. It is really quite a simple film. Film in one continuous shot, it is abstract and experimental in its overall execution, but ultimately one dimensional and lacking any real meaning.
It is a rather casual experiment, design seemingly to play with the limits of the lens’ scope and focus. There is nothing particularly profound to glean from this 5-minute footage and the short film is probably better suited as an art gallery setting than on a cinema screen. It definitely feels like more of an art piece than a cinematic one.
There is at least some value to be attained from the experimental short. It is certainly poetic in its approach and offers some quiet reflection on the characteristics of light and nature. In the words of the filmmaker, his films are “a meditative, transitive process in which the relationship with nature and light [is the] essence of [his] practice”. He goes on to posit that “with painting photography and video, my work tries to capture the plasticity of the medium. Inspired by the interaction of light through different mediums, I explore the complex concept of perception and the abstract juxtaposition of stable and unstable media”.
The film is also accompanied by an imagistic poem, which certainly helps to add to the effect of the film, and gives it a little more context and weight, if only slight. It reads thus:
for the sun to shine
early in the morning
the moon is still
but the sky is not
The film perhaps buckles under the weight of its own philosophical and poetic aspirations and definitely requires explanation, effectively working as part of a multimedia experience rather than working independently on its own merits.
How Can I Tell You? is a music video from Estonian poet/singer Lembe Lokk and directed by French animator Barbara Creutz. The short clip takes us on a sentimental journey traversing the linguistic and visual terrains of love and heartbreak. The video has a haunting quality to it, which leaves a distinct and lingering taste of bittersweet resolution. There is a stylistic nuance to the piece as well, mixing live action with hand-drawn animation, although it has to be said that the animation is far stronger than the filmed sections which are superimposed almost as an afterthought.
Born in Chicago and brought up in Algeria, Creutz’s style is exotic and playful and seems to be informed of worldly experiences. The vivid colours and rugged hand-illustrated figures give the film a raw and naturalistic vitality that is matched by the liquorice tenor of Lokk’s voice. The rose petals in the trees explode in strokes of deep scarlet as they morph into speaking lips. This is a song about nature, language, love, sadness and so much more. Performed in a folk style, the violins and acoustic guitars sit perfectly with the heartfelt swells of Lokk’s voice. It is a voice that equally conveys pain, anguish and heartbreak, depicted literally by a body initially curled up in a ball that opens out into free fall. Limbs separate from the falling body that quickly fades away, leaving behind only branches, petals and hearts.
The whole piece is a whirlwind of emotions that span, in just a few minutes, a journey from life to death. The evocative imagery and poetry are effective in their simplicity, careful not to abstract themselves beyond relatability. The song is gloomy and the visuals crossover somewhere between gothic and romantic, making for an eerie and unusual but effective piece. It isn’t entirely accessible. In some ways it is quite difficult to pinpoint exactly why and how it does have such a mesmerizing effect. But, in the midst of all the bold inflections and heavy sentiment, there is something pure and delicate about the way in which the piece breezes by and steals your attention.
Creutz’s animation is innovative and considered. The feeling of the song is matched well here and there is a cohesiveness that keeps the narrative firmly centred on the notion of love, nature and loss. The physical textures are thick and the drawings have an almost primal essence to them, really creating a powerful and untethered energy. With a runtime of just over 4 minutes, How Can I Tell You? offers up a bold statement both visually that sonically, thought it feels that the visuals carry the music rather than the other way round. Creutz has a very interesting visual style that would lend well itself to darker material.