En attendant les barbares: Divine words
by Alfonso Rivera
- Eugène Green presents the world premiere of his new and audacious film at Gijón: an acting workshop transformed into a film
Gijón International Cinema Festival maintains a prolific relationship with the French filmmaker Eugène Green: it was in the welcoming Asturian city that he presented The Portuguese Nun [+see also:
film profile] in 2001, with the festival dedicating a retrospective to him the following year, covering his atypical, original and entirely unconventional productions. The artist returns to the 55th edition of the festival on the Cantabrian coast to compete in official competition with En attendant les barbares [+see also:
film profile], one of the most daring films in its section, which doesn’t seem to appeal to any taste, style or current trend in particular.
With it, Green lays claim to the transmission of a past that has led us to the present, which, according to his own words, we're no longer living in because we’re more inclined to live in a virtual world. People, he insists, no longer have spiritual lives, but materialistic ones, which leads to constant fear due to a lack of foundation. Said fear is embodied in his film by the barbarians (which don't exist in reality) to which the title refers.
The film transports us to the French city of Toulouse and its magnificent historical heritage. The static images of places, such as photographic snapshots, place the viewer in a world full of men, women, and history. Initially Green was asked to film a performance workshop (Chantiers nomades), but instead of accepting a simple almost documentary-style exercise, the restless director wanted to create an entire film project, the result of which was En attendant les barbares.
He selected twelve actors from 35 candidates for the film, wrote a screenplay, and with a team consisting only of his faithful director of photography (Raphaël O'Byrne), a sound engineer and a directorial assistant, filmed them for ten days. Almost without any scenography, filmed in dimly lit environments and with many glances directed straight at the camera against a black backdrop, the actors recite otto-syllabic verses while acting out a story about fears, obstacles, and oddities: six visitors to a wizard's home must leave their fears behind... and their mobile phones. Despite Green insisting that cinema and theatre are opposing arts, here he combines them and with it creates a very organic relationship between the voices and physical bodies of the performers.
Certainly not lacking in humour (the virtual present is ridiculed by the curse of technological gadgets), the 75-minute film, which, according to its author will not be enjoying a commercial release, (although it is also due to be screened at Turin Festival), beckons the viewer in to experiment closely with an acting workshop, something that in the world of performance can be stimulating, but that can be somewhat cumbersome and not very empathetic for those who are unfamiliar with said world. An exercise in which almost no decorative elements are used to facilitate the understanding of a text in Occitan, full of very beautiful terms but that, overall, ends up being a little bit pretentious.
En attendant les barbares was produced and distributed by Chantiers nomades.
(Translated from Spanish)
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