Sunday, August 31, 2014

Locarno 2014: Antinea, l'amante della città sepolta, Edgar G. Ulmer, 1961

Three guys arrive in the film flying in a helicopter. They come from nowhere, from the outside, from the invisible (=from the modern world). They might be on some kind of mission, but it doesn't matter at all... urban nobodys all of them (doen't matter one bit that one of them is played by Trintignant...), they're the very image of indifference. They sit in the helicopter side by side, staring blandly through the windshield, one of them actually reads a lifestyle magazine.

The film takes them in, embraces them, transforms them, does away with their indifference, with their anonymity.

First they have to be taken away from their helicopter, their lifestyle magazines, they have to be brought down, to the ground, they have to give up their distancing perspective. Only the cheapest special effects will do the trick. The first part of the film is a complete breakdown of Hollywood studio aesthetics, first the landing scene with a toy helicopter dangling in the air, then the sandstorm and the first refuge in a cave, a complete unmaking of technique, world building, the visible.

But after having passed through this zero point of representation, the film reasserts itself: He builds another world, beneath the invisible, unreachable, perhaps uninhabitable first one. Ulmer's Atlantis is pure b-movie bliss, a complex fantasy set firmly against reality. Here, where earth opens up into itself, the three men are no longer interchangeable, no longer able to hide behind a noncomitted gaze, which was schooled by magazines and windshields.

It's not about a return to some natural habitat untouched by civilization, though. The men aren't confronted by nature, by "the real exterior", but by total artifice, "the real interior". Ultimately, Atlantis isn't a place for action, but for introspection.

No comments: