30 may 2011
Over Your Cities Grass Will Grow (Artificial Eye 2010) is directed (and mostly shot) by Sophie Fiennes. The film is a documentary of the German artist Anselm Kiefer and his alchemical creative processes. It's a cinematic journey rendering in film the personal/sculptural universe Kiefer created at La Ribaute, his remote hillside studio at Barjac in the northern Gard, barely in the Languedoc, nearly the Ardeche.
The themes and images in this film are haunting: symbolism, mysticism and the occult. The music from Jorg Widmann and Gyorgy Ligeti is perfectly matched. Fiennes accurately portrays the unusual artistic practices and personal expression of Kiefer and his colleagues in the atelier in a completely 'fitting' way. Think Wilkie Collins or Carson McCullough?
Commencing with almost Gothic footage of the labyrinth of cellars and corridors of the old silk factory Kiefer inhabits, the film moves onto the manufacturing of large-and often bizarre-sculptural pieces, mainly of buildings...or building materials. Plenty of lead, concrete, re-bar (not always set properly!), straw, dirt and broken glass. Portions of the film are grissaille, which only increases the surreal character of the film. What is most fascinating for me, the architect, is the 'building' of a miniature City in ruins (or well on-the-way) with toppling towers, and stacks of battered lead 'books'.
Fiennes certainly provides an intimate portrait of an architectural artist at work: creation and destruction as motivating forces in his world. My only quibble is that some of Fiennes' cinematography looks a bit 'home-film 1960s' and the post-production is a little squiffy, too, but, in fairness, perhaps these are designed and part of the film's seductiveness.
Coda: Not long after 'completing' his amazing ruined City high above the Rhone and Ardeche rivers, Kiefer moved his entire body of paintings and smaller works to an abandoned warehouse on the Peripherique in Paris, leaving La Ribaute to the wind, rain and grass.
Not a lot of action and, indeed few words, so this is a film perfectly suited to visually articulate architects. Art film at its best?
'Riveting.' **** out of 5 stars.
P.S. Proper film critics have rated it c. 7/10. My friend, who's part of the modern crowd of BFI and Cannes and LA critics, agrees. So perhaps worth viewing?
Copyright Patricia Stefanowicz 2011