Director: Rikard Lassenius
Running time: 30mins
It isn’t often that I feel genuinely out of my depth when writing for Indy Film Library, but the closest I usually come is when addressing experimental films. Even when I think I like what I have seen, there is never a guarantee that what I believe I have witnessed in the fluctuations of a string of luminous globules, or the shards of some frazzled home movie without context, is even remotely the same as what someone else glimpses as they gaze into the void. This ambiguity is at once experimental cinema’s greatest blessing, and its deepest curse.
Knowing how to play into that ambiguity seems to make the difference. In the cases of films like Huo Zhe (currently in competition for this year’s Best Experimental Film at Indy Film Library’s annual festival, screening this weekend), by taking some aspect of everyday life and extracting it from its usual context, some filmmakers are able to send viewers on a deep, dark exploration of their own thoughts and beliefs while watching something as apparently straight-forward as a person washing their hands. Unfortunately, there is nothing of this life which you can really draw on in the case of Colophon 1 & 2.
The first half of Rikard Lassenius’ amorphous video diptych focuses on a non-descript ball of colour as it waxes and wanes, gradually expanding to absorb every pixel of the screen, like a horrific slow-motion image of a solar flare that might one day consume our planet. As the screen finally begins to glow white, Lassenius’ electronic soundtrack reaches a buzzing crescendo, white noise matching the white heat our eyes are blistering under – driving home a feeling of apocalyptic dread that might have been steadily mounting, had it not taken 15 minutes to get here. It would be possible to achieve the same in half that time.
According to Lassenius’ own director’s statement, his pieces are “mostly meditative and even monotonous,” motivated by a desire to “stop time… stop the viewer and make an impact with an emotional toolset.” In this context – a context I hasten to add would not necessarily be readily available to someone who stumbled into a screening of this at a film festival – Colophon almost works. It certainly will place viewers with the good fortune to be briefed on its aims into something approaching a meditative state – but like hypnosis, this is only something which will work on a willing mind. Without giving us something more to distract our chattering inner monologues with than a visualisation that would have been at home on Windows Media Player’s Millennium Addition, the chances are very few and far between that anyone beyond the usual attendees of art installations will give this the time of day.
The second half does even less to remedy this – with the white heat of Colophon 1 gradually fading to reveal a world of inanimate grey shapes. The soundtrack again does much of the heavy-lifting, this time resembling the grumbling churn of layers of rock grinding against one-another. The screen gradually pans over a series of non-descript shapes – possibly conjuring ideas of a landscape of marble, or a city hewn from white stone. As the film progresses – crawling by at 15 minutes once more – the groaning sound increases, while the screen gradually darkens. Perhaps the first half was not the Earth’s demise, but it’s creation – and out of that, we have seen a great civilisation rise. Now, the ominous snarl of conflicting tectonic plates might indicate it is heading for its own natural cataclysm – just as the growling of Vesuvius once prefaced the ash-covered doom befalling on Pompeii’s citizens. Who can say?
I certainly can’t. What I can say is that in the grand scheme of things, while its visuals might not be especially ground-breaking, when combined with the creativity of its audio Colophon 1 & 2 has enough going for it to induce flowing strands of diverging thought in a willing audience. That puts it ahead of the Digits of Pi at least – a film so frustratingly underwhelming that it comes across as a practical joke – Lassenius’ work is unlikely to do more than preach to the converted.
In the end, what can you say about a pair of films which are so utterly subjective? On the one hand, I must commend Colophon 1 & 2 for their ability to get me to think, and feel things without much in the way of overt or definitive input. At the same time, I could get the same thing from being placed in a sensory deprivation tank, and be a lot more comfortable while getting it. Acceptable art installation fodder this may be – events where it could play in the background as the curators chuckle knowingly to each other, over trays of wasted vol-au-vents – but it is not something which would be especially enjoyable in a cinema, especially not sober, and certainly not for a total of 30 minutes.