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Film Scratches: Poetry of the Downtrodden – Short Films of Jeremy Gluck (2017)

Gluck_Unterzone

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.

Jeremy Gluck is a Canadian-born artist living in Wales. Two of his recent short films have an unusual way to combine images, words, and music to find a kind of bleak beauty in situations of dire despair.

Unterzone, an 8 minute film from 2017, superimposes footage from an old science film about experiments with rats over ominous shots of a dark, deserted alley. In the voiceover text, a man announces “Now that I am half asleep, let me take you to Unterzone.” Inter-titles from the science film describe an experiment where rats are systematically starved to death, and the text refers obliquely to a traumatic experience that occurred in a childhood bedroom. “Unterzone” is described as a realm of “self-refrigeration,” an escape both from traumatic memories and from doctors and hospitals where, like the rats, the narrator is subject to cruel experimentation. “There’s worse ways to be beaten than with a belt,” he says, and this radical dissociation into a place beyond meaning may be his only way to escape from abuse which is as much mental as physical. “Filed away or filed down, the core would remain toxic gold,” he says, in a poetic evocation of his flight into unreality. The superimposition of the footage of the rats and the dark alley is a way of depicting a person who lives in several layers of reality simultaneously. The film is a powerful evocation of a dissociative state which tries to provide a refuge from prison, but which becomes a its own kind of prison.

Gluck_TravelLess Poverty is Needed (Travel in Peace), a seven and a half minute short from 2017, shows grainy, slowed-down footage of several homeless people sleeping out on the streets of Swansea on a cold, rainy night. The voiceover text intones a prayerful wish: “Knowing love, knowing life, travel in peace, all of you.” The footage gradually becomes more blurry and pixelated, the shimmering deep blues and purples like a hovering cloud. Without direct religious references, the film evokes the Christian tradition which associates poverty and suffering with spiritual redemption. Near the end, the voice says “this being is leaving,” and the headlights from a passing car suddenly illuminate the sleepers in a strange glare, almost as if their spirits are leaving their bodies. We see their “travels” in a new light. It is a reverent, respectful look at the extreme suffering of others.

David Finkelstein is a filmmaker, musician, and critic. For more information on Film Scratches, or to submit an experimental film for review, contact lakeivan@earthlink.net.

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