I wish to specify that while I don’t think this film is perfect, I say that begrudgingly. It’s only because there’s one scene in a library that goes on a bit long for my taste. That being said though trying to judge or critique this film is somewhat of a fool’s errand, not that I won’t try. When you love a movie critiquing small elements of it can feel a bit like going to see the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel and saying, ‘oh, I’m personally a bit bored of cherubs’, like, just look at it! Look at the towering achievement and be awed! So yeah I can’t say this movie is from quite the top drawer but I can say it’s really worth your time and you should totally watch it. It’s just, if you’re making a movie like ‘L’ange’, you really need to keep hold of the audience the whole time, and if one feels any one scene dragging, you’re threatening to throw the whole movie off.
That being said…
This brought me right back to when I was 16, and I saw ‘Fight Club’ for the first time, and I realised that movies could also be this totally other thing and still work. Or like when I saw ‘Eraserhead’ for the first time at 17, or ‘Let The Right One In’ at 14. I honestly nearly cried just because it totally reinforced my love of cinema, (I did actually do that for those reasons when I saw a movie called ‘Possum’ by the way). Reason 1 that cinema is better than drugs; because chasing that first high does occasionally pay off.
I loved how it made me simultaneously this really passive & active viewer- constantly engaged in the enigma that is the film, and also just sitting back and being astonished by the visceral experience. The film is constantly keeping you on the edge of your toes, you’re waiting for the film to explain what itself is, and simultaneously knowing that it never will and that that is the point, but constantly trying to crack the film anyway.
I know the film has these certain themes of God, life, and ascension, but beyond a certain surface-level allegory that provides some kind of overarching homogeneity to the film, I am fundamentally uninterested in them. I am interested in the total reinvention of cinema that it presents. I can’t describe this in any way other than sticking your hands into the very medium of cinema and blindly feeling about to see what you’ll find. In that way, it reminds of films like ‘Bait’, ‘Suspiria’, or ‘Eraserhead’, in the way that is a purely cinematic experience. This film takes what you love about cinema and makes a movie that is infected with it. With the tactility of engagement, with the elicit je ne sais quoi that comes from a movie just, working, and it strips back plot and coherence, and all the things we expect movies to be and it spits out this writing, bubbling mess of ideas, images, and sounds. I would show this movie to aliens to demonstrate what cinema is. Putting this movie into words is so hard, but I think, the best way to describe it is, as the visceral act of watching a movie, and the love of that experience, taken, concentrated, and prostrated across celluloid.
I loved the score, I loved what Bokanowski achieves here with just the medium of photography and editing. Keeping in mind that this was pre-digital, the amount of vision, clarity of intent, and just sheer man-hours of work that went into the editing here is astonishing.
Most of all, I love that the things I love about this film are going to be totally different to the things anyone else will love about it and that the things someone else loves about it are going to be totally different to the things a third person will love about it.
Cinema is alive and well, and you just need to go out into the world and find it.