Piercing Stillness [Arepo, Italy, 2019]
Stillness is rarely a subject pursued by filmmakers. Just as silence seems opposed to music, stillness seems the very antithesis of a form defined by movement. However, Italian silent film Piercing Stillness exploits this juxtaposition of form and content to its full advantage, combining sombre shots and eccentric comedy to explore the relationship between art and the artist.
The story follows a man pursued by a mysterious cloaked villain. The former soon stumbles across a camera and an abandoned statue in the middle of the field. While what happens next is largely left to the interpretation of the viewer, one thing is clear: the men who seek to capture their surroundings on film are soon captured themselves.
Although, in his director’s statement Arepo writes that his motives are to celebrate stillness in a world so caught up with movement, this short also seems to comment on the loss of the artist within their work. It is significant that as soon as each man picks up the camera, they are thrust into scenes that are dominated by their deathly lack of movement. A stationary mannequin, collected butterflies and bearded statues create a surprisingly lifeless setting.
The scene of the butterfly collector seems particularly relevant because the man tries to create something beautiful from the bodies of these insects, and kills them in the process. As he impales each one with his precise pin, he is literally piercing them with stillness, transforming them into art at the cost of their lives.
It seems that the men must also pay dearly for their art. Shielded by the static, silent bricks of a decaying house, a scream rings out as the characters are dispatched off-screen - even their deaths will not disturb the stillness of the film.
The final image of the mannequin taking over the role of cameraman shows that the solidification is complete: the characters are no longer people but motionless objects. Through its clever use of scenery and sound, Piercing Stillness is a triumphant homage to vintage cinema that provides an intelligent commentary on the nature of filmmaking.
'Piercing Stillness' was a film in consideration for Short Focus Film Festival 2019.