Hiroshima Pablo Stoll (2009 Uruguay) Noelia Burle
Viewed: Star and Shadow Cinema 18 Nov 2010; ticket £4.00
Peregrinations in a voiceless landscape
I was fortunate the week before viewing Hiroshima (H) to have seen Buster Keaton’s 1923 movie The Three Ages. It alerted me to some of the latent ideas that Pablo Stoll (PS) puts into play in his structurally contrived and motivated film.
H is structured as a ‘silent’ movie meaning that dialogue is mediated through intertitles. The rest of the sound track is filled out with music, of course deafening mind battering music, and fx. Some of the fx are also registered through ‘intertitles’. H is a latter day take on the silent movie which uses this form as a means of structuring comment about the nature of the contemporary world which is flooded out with communications.
Thinking about the comic ‘silent movies’ in particular Keaton’s, they often take the form of a walkthrough script. The character starts at one place and in the course of the movie walks through a number of different settings that present and develop situations which allow for various visual gags before the character moves on. The settings are usually rich both in background and in the persons that occupy them. Detailed sets and larger than life characters in the films of the ‘silent’ age reflect the richness of the era with its classically monumental buildings and structures, and its bewiskered and finely apparelled citizens.
Juan is the comic figure in H. Like Keaton he is po faced, keeping a solid inexpressive mien in response to all he experiences and those he encounters. A reflective surface feeding back the reflection of his world. In H the viewer accompanies Juan in his series of peregrinations from one place to another. In contrast to the fullness of the sets and settings of the silent comedies, Juan experiences the impoverished milieu of the suburbs. Depopulated empty zones that are devoid of outer life; inner zones occupied by the absent. Instead of spaces that teem with life as in the ‘silent’ days, the contemporary world feeds back an impoverished experience. Engagement with this world causes contraction not expansion of consciousness, de-amplification of intensity. The hurley burly and anarchy of bar scenes with their stereotyped drunks in the ‘silents’ , is replaced by the solitary ritual of the smoking of the ‘joint’, internalised movement replaces externalised experience.
The joke is that the ‘silent’ era reached out to the human voice for completion. The age of person to person communication, the mobile reaches out for silence. With all the means of communication and technologies of extension of voice there is nothing to say.
As Juan meanders through his day we hear what he hears: the chaotic cacophony of the sound that he feeds into his head through his set. A music that simultaneously eradicates the world and is ignored.
H is a one joke and one dimension film, but the dimension explored by PS is broad and filled out in space and time so that as viewer you are directed into the movie. In H (as in the apartment shots in Rear Window) your observations and your understanding of what you see is as much your experience as it is Juan’s. The opening shot is a long follow track accompanying Juan from his work place in a bakery to his home. The real time movement as we walk along pedestrian paths and across suburban streets factors into our consciousness: we experience the walk as our own. We experience the lifeless ordinariness of the setting for ourselves, without intermediary.
H is a movie where the content is built into its ‘silent’ structure. The gags the jokes as in ‘silent’ movies built into ‘seeing it’. Each setting generates a situation and each situation calls forth a joke which is structured into the situation. In its final pay off, the movie exploits the silent structure of the film in a manner which is predictable but very funny. It relies on the old adage about how to make ‘em laugh: tell them they are going to laugh; make ‘em laugh; then tell them they’ve laughed. Anticipation is the fulcrum of slapstick and perhaps also of cerebral humour, as is the ability to be really laughing at yourself. PS I think understands this.
H was screened at Rotterdam 10 film festival but hasn’t found a distributor. This is a pity as it is an unusual clever and engrossing film. It was fortunate that Star and Shadow members had seen the film at the festival and screened it at our cinema.
What I don’t understand is why PS has called his movie Hiroshima? Is it because the atomic age has left us as mute shadows? Or am I way of target….somewhere?