Content is King, we are often taught, the issue/theme is the most important, the form is only the carrier. Mostly those ”teaching” are television people, who I have often heard saying at diverse pitching sessions: ”This film is too artistic for me!”
I wonder what happens with Sergey Loznitsa’s artistic masterpiece ”Austerlitz” in terms of broadcast. Will it happen? Will it end up on television? The film which is shown in the ”German Films” section is based on Form. The director has made a clear aesthetical choice for watching the tourists, who are visiting the former concentration camps. How they walk, how they talk, how they dress, how they take pictures with their smartphones, there are (almost) no words but a strongly manufactured sound score that in the long sequences are nerve-wracking. I suffered when I saw that film.
Form, another fine director, French/Czech Stan Neumann, has said, is the face of the film, the way the content appears to the
viewer. Make it shrink, have big things become small, you are creating an imaginary object. Form is always about taking things away, explore reality and find your place in it.
I was thinking about that when I watched ”Almost There” (PHOTO) by Swiss Jacqueline Zünd, who has chosen a precise visual language to describe the three aging men, no interviews, voice over the whole way through, superb cinematography. I have to confess that I in the beginning felt distant to the three men but slowly I got closer to them = got into the film, which is far away from being a tv programme. There are loads of interview-based portraits of old men! In Zünd’s film the images are composed, there is thought about framing, the ambition is to make every image and sequence characterise the character.
You can also phrase it in another way: You have to choose your genre. Another German film shown here in Krakow is the shocking ”The Promise”, that started as a journalistic investigation into a murder case but ended up being a shakespearean drama with the young woman being a Lady Macbeth, who orders Jens Soering, the young German boy who is in love with her, to kill her parents. Or did he, the film indicates no and the viewer goes with that, when we meet Soering in a long interview decades later in the prison, where he is locked up. It’s superb journalism, it’s a harsh critique of a judicial system but it is also a love story and a psychological drama.
Choose your genre… I come to Krakow from Barcelona, where we showed Piotr Stasik’s ”21 x New York” and ”You Have No Idea How Much I Love You” by Pawel Lozinski, the president of this year’s main competition in Krakow. Both Polish gentlemen found their genre, the essay for Stasik, the chamber play for Lozinski. Both films were very well received in Catalunya as they were in Krakow last year.
The form is not ”only” a carrier of content. Having said that it’s not as simple as that. Films have to deal with something important, not necessarily something new, but then in a new way, please! So we still need the King!