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Film Scratches: Exuberant Nihilism – Nihelious (2017)

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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.

In the deliriously kitschy world of Nihelious, a 10 and a half minute animated look at love and marriage by Ukrainian artist Yuri Yefanov, chubby cupids and angels shower sparks onto the globe, swans glide among floating roses, and an ancient Greek temple, the kind of temple you’d see in an online game, features an altar labeled “Our Wedding Memories.” Swirling, synthesized harps and strings provide a low-budget romantic atmosphere. The densely layered imagery usually combines three or four overlapping scenes, and the romantic storyline progresses swiftly from a honeymoon to parenthood and a succession of beautiful mansions for the couple to live in. (For some reason, they also receive a phone call from a giant frog. Whatever.) In the film’s final image, a lonely robot kicks a can down a road in an artificial city, a machine world which is fully alienated from human experience.

Nihelious2Artists have been making “found footage” works since Joseph Cornell invented them in 1936, and these films have frequently exploited the kitsch quality of cheesy educational or propaganda films from the past. Found footage artists have used cuts as their chief means of expression, as when Bruce Conner, in A Movie, cuts from an officer looking through a submarine’s periscope to a shot of a voluptuous woman in a bikini. At most, filmmakers would combine layers of found footage through superimpositions, to create new, multilayered imagery.

Yefanov, however, is taking the idea of the found footage film to a new level by reusing old readymade 3d models and environments, the kind which are typically sold to wedding videographers, and compositing them together to make completely new environments. By layering together these 3d landscapes into new, surreal environments, Yefanov is able to wield a much more dynamic and plastic sense of “found footage,” because the different layers intersect each other spatially. It is more as if he is taking “found environments” and using them to forge completely new worlds, worlds which are consistently surprising and delightful. The music, by Dmitriy Avksentiev, is likewise assembled from readymade, commercial tracks.

Nihelious may be nihilistic in the sense that its exuberant kitsch and sheer silliness skewer any belief in true love, marriage, progress or happiness, but its joyous visual abundance betrays a healthy and positive delight in the power of art.

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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.

Read also:

Film Scratches: Suspending the Rules – Poetry of Dreams (2017)

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