“There is narration in the montage.”
I kicked off my first True/False fest with a great film and a great Q&A. The doc is Abendland, and the above quote is from director Nikolaus Geyrhalter, best known for the gorgeous yet disturbing food industry film Our Daily Bread. It’s a response to a broad question and issue with the doc at hand, but it’s also perfect on its own.
Abendland is another series of incredibly vivid and revealing shots, statically framed moving images captured around Europe with very little to no independent context. But put together these images tell a story and present an attitude about the EU focused on the continent’s problems of superiority and exclusion.
We see border fences, surveillance cameras and monitors, protests, arrests, but also basic elements of life — babies, old people, sex, death, etc., perhaps to show how Europeans are just the same as any humans. All night scenes, because the word ‘abendland’ has two meanings, the Occident/West and “land in the evening.” Like with Our Daily Bread, the individual pieces are stunning yet also often disturbing.
“It’s all beautiful pictures, but what you see is horrible,” Geyrhalter said at another point in the Q&A.
And of course the horrors come through with the montage. The first quote was stated after someone asked the director how he got permission to film certain people and events since they are depicted in the film. Geyrhalter says everyone was simply told they were making a film about night in Europe and it would basically just be an observational film without voiceover narration.
Without doing the math, it is just an observational film. It’s also quite fitting as well as ironic that some of the people who might be most upset with the ultimate context of the editing and overall thesis of this darkly poetic visual essay are those who are involved in monitoring and profiling citizens and immigrants. This doc obviously brings some important discussion points to the topic of consent.
It’s likely that Abendland will eventually hit your local art museum before your neighborhood multiplex, and hopefully it will end up on Netflix, where many had a chance to see Our Daily Bread. It too needs to be seen.
Here’s a trailer that’s not in English, but that doesn’t matter: