Laila Pakalnina: Spoon

You never know what to expect from Latvian director Laila Pakalnina. She makes short films, she makes fiction and she makes documentaries, which are far from mainstream, with quite their own language and definitely Cinema. Like this one, ”Spoon”, she calls it, and yes, there are spoons in the film, plastic spoons but the film is much more than indicating, how spoons are made: It is a highly sophisticated black&white visual essay on the industrial world we live in. It sounds very serious, and in a way it is, but it’s not a doomsday film. You don’t feel it like that, when you watch the fantastic tableaux created by the cameraman Gints Bērziņš. What an image composer he and his director is! There are no words needed, the images invite you to enter the scene that is set up for you, see and understand/interpret for yourself. Here is the opening one:

… that is enigmatic in many ways. A woman is instructed to sit at a table with some papers in front of her. In a room with a big machine – I have no idea what it is. But there is a display on this machine, that the woman worker looks at after she has put on protective glasses and helmet, and after some men have given her advice on what her job is. The sound score is strong, mechanic and metallic, with sounds from the room but not only that, also music elements. The scene stays long, it’s a slow cinema film genre, the woman looks in the direction of the camera, smiles, puts her hand to her hair, wants to look good; it’s an amazing start of an amazing film.

Some minutes later a text appears on the screen: ”Everything here connects to everything else. Really.” Said by Leonardo da Vinci… did he really say that? A hint from the director, cut to a scene where a boy is eating with a plastic spoon, in a scene that is not clear to see as it is filmed through a window or some plastic… And then the title comes up “Spoon”.

And from there you are taken around the industrial world of our times – factories, urban landscapes, tubes, trains transporting chemicals, movements from right to left within the image, like people entering the stage, the theatre of Life, in (I read at the end credits) Azerbadjan, China, Norway, Latvia. It’s not a world you want to be in, but it’s part of our world, people are there, are working there, no working man’s death, they are protected, producing they are, it’s not fun you think and are supported in that feeling by the electric sounds in the sound score, electro music, I don’t know how to characterise it. Multilayered, a film open for interpretation and reflection, a film for everyone who loves to see how image and sound and editing, without a word being said, can be put together, Cinema! 

Latvia, 2019, 66 mins. 

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Tue Steen Müller
Tue Steen Müller

Müller, Tue Steen
Documentary Consultant and Critic, DENMARK

Worked with documentary films for more than 20 years at the Danish Film Board, as press officer, festival representative and film consultant/commissioner. Co-founder of Balticum Film and TV Festival, Filmkontakt Nord, Documentary of the EU and EDN (European Documentary Network).
Awards: 2004 the Danish Roos Prize for his contribution to the Danish and European documentary culture. 2006 an award for promoting Portuguese documentaries. 2014 he received the EDN Award “for an outstanding contribution to the development of the European documentary culture”. 2016 The Cross of the Knight of the Order for Merits to Lithuania. 2019 a Big Stamp at the 15th edition of ZagrebDox. 2021 receipt of the highest state decoration, Order of the Three Stars, Fourth Class, for the significant contribution to the development and promotion of Latvian documentary cinema outside Latvia. In 2022 he received an honorary award at DocsBarcelona’s 25th edition having served as organizer and programmer since the start of the festival.
From 1996 until 2005 he was the first director of EDN (European Documentary Network). From 2006 a freelance consultant and teacher in workshops like Ex Oriente, DocsBarcelona, Archidoc, Documentary Campus, Storydoc, Baltic Sea Forum, Black Sea DocStories, Caucadoc, CinéDOC Tbilisi, Docudays Kiev, Dealing With the Past Sarajevo FF as well as programme consultant for the festivals Magnificent7 in Belgrade, DOCSBarcelona, Verzio Budapest, Message2Man in St. Petersburg and DOKLeipzig. Teaches at the Zelig Documentary School in Bolzano Italy.

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