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Film Scratches: Meditations on the Ordinary – The Short Trilogy of Peace (2016)

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Film Scratches focuses on the world of experimental and avant-garde film, especially as practiced by individual artists. It features a mixture of reviews, interviews, and essays.

A Review by David Finkelstein.

Martin Sagadin in a Slovenian filmmaker living in Canterbury, New Zealand. His Short Trilogy of Peace consists of three shorts, which he aptly calls “poetic documentaries.” The films use documentary material: workers in an engineering plant, an elderly couple having tea, Sagadin’s grandparents. He uses this footage to create poetic montages, and his lyrical photography evokes the texture, mood and poetry of everyday life.

Canterbury is old industrial and farming community, and we see many shots of trucks and aging machinery. A discarded plastic jug seems futuristic in this setting, and a microwave on a shelf in the factory kitchen seems positively alien. Workers appear neither ecstatically boisterous nor agonizingly alienated, but simply content and complacent, in a world that provides basic needs, if not much more. The footage of the engineering plant is intercut with an older couple having tea at home, where the man expounds his philosophy of life: it is best to simply forget unpleasant memories. Many of the shots are in the rain or overcast weather, and the feeling of peace in the film is often the restrained, muted peace of a rainy day. The poetry here is the poetry of contentment, of the lack of any overt poetry.

The second segment also juxtaposes two settings. The film alternates between shots of a woman brushing her hair on a dark, dreary day, and lingering landscape shots of hills, caves, and beaches in the fog and rain. A softened, gauzy look drapes everything, and the dominant colors are muted purple, green and yellow. A texture of quiet melancholy suffuses the film, as a door in an empty hallway swings creakily in a drafty room.

The last segment is filmed in Slovenia, where Sagadin is visiting his aging grandparents. His grandmother cares for his extremely infirm grandfather, who has dementia, with great tenderness. She has an ironic, humorous sense about his decline, cheerfully resigned to the catastrophe, an attitude which seems helpful to both of them. The grandfather looks so lost and weak that he appears close to death, but she promises that he’s “much better in the evenings,” and he is. We see him dressed, out of bed, and walking with her through the streets, smiling and looking around, like a completely different person.

Sagadin has a painterly way of framing shots, and he uses color to great emotional effect. Most of the shots in the film are quietly suffused with glowing light, whether the grayish light of rain or the buttery light of the sun finally emerging. An almost subliminal use of music in a few sequences adds to the emotional resonance. The unemphatic, melancholy peace of these films is indeed poetic, the poetry of light and color, filling ordinary moments.

David Finkelstein is a filmmaker, musician, and critic. For more information on Film Scratches, or to submit an experimental film for review, contact david (at) lakeivan.org.

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