- BERLINALE 2023: Bas Devos invites us to stop and take the time to look at the things (or the people) we don’t usually see
A crane. Sounds from a building site. A man, seen from behind, is smoking a cigarette resting his elbows on a balcony. We wonder what he’s thinking about. We see building sites everywhere, every day, especially in Brussels, a city eternally under construction. But you never see the men from these building sites. Stefan is one of them, and it’s his peregrinations through the streets of Brussels and its boundaries that Bas Devos follows in Here [+see also:
interview: Bas Devos
film profile], the director’s fourth feature film, and his third selected for the Berlinale (in the Encounters section this time), since his previous film Ghost Tropic [+see also:
interview: Bas Devos
film profile] strayed from Berlin to take part in Cannes’ Directors’ Fortnight.
It's the day before the Belgian construction sector’s summer holidays begin and Stefan is about to leave, planning a return home to Romania for a few weeks. But before he leaves, he allows himself a detour through the town. From sunrise to sunset, he visits his friends, offering them a little of the soup he made from the leftovers in his fridge, but mostly giving them his attention. At a time when distraction seems to monopolise our time, Here invites us to mobilise our attention: attention for others, for nature, the capacity to make time for time. Time plays a preponderant role in Bas Devos’ films, allowing spaces to make their mark over the duration, and allowing looks to linger and silences to be heard.
Stefan’s increasingly bucolic, urban stroll takes the form of a fluid movement, that of walking, rather than a frenzied mechanism. His various meetings - with a waiter friend, with his sister, with an uncle – are all of a certain duration, allowing for lulls in conversations and valuing the act of sharing a bowl of soup: a key which opens the doors to being together. Until his path crosses that of a young woman who forces him to stop, to place one knee on the ground in order to observe the object of her studies and of all her attention more closely: moss. "Moss grows everywhere and most people don’t even see it. Like me". It just so happens that moss, which migrated from underwater expanses to dry land, is the oldest of plants. Symbolically, its perseverance puts the fleeting nature and fragility of our own presence on Earth into perspective. It also reawakens Stefan’s, and our, capacity for wonder.
Can a lucky encounter change our fate? We don’t know what Stefan’s future looks like, but we do know that it might now be a bit different, that his presence in the world will be changed. In Here, Bas Devos sketches out his poetic, highly pictorial, urban tableaux, which are shot almost in square ratio, as if suspended outside of time, and tinged with a contagious humanism which might push us to see the things (and the people) we didn’t previously see, differently. It’s a cinematic approach of few words and effects yet brimming with moving contemplations. Etymologically speaking, this word might refer to "being with a part of the sky", but here we’re clearly invited to anchor ourselves firmly to the ground.
Here is produced by Belgian firm Quetzalcoatl, much like Bas Devos’ previous film Ghost Tropic. International sales are entrusted to China’s Rediance, who also acquired the rights to Ghost Tropic.
(Translated from French)
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