“Metachaos” (SHORT FILM)
For the first of this week’s Cinema Purgatorio offerings, we’ve chosen a short, surreal experimental film that is, hands down, one of the most challenging, engrossing, and overwhelming cinematic experiences on multiple levels — visceral, emotional, aesthetic, philosophical — that we’ve come across in ages. Like so many other items that we’ll be featuring in weeks and months to come, this one was brought to our attention by video artist and Teeming Brain friend Jesús Olmo.
“Metachaos” is the brainchild and soulchild of Italian filmmaker, painter, and photographer Alessandro Bavari. It premiered in 2011 and won multiple prizes at numerous international film festivals. Here’s the official synopsis, whose heady verbiage and oddly skewed syntax only begin to hint at the power of the film itself:
Metachaos, from Greek Meta (beyond) and Chaos (the abyss where the eternally-formless state of the universe hides), indicates a primordial shape of ameba, which lacks in precise morphology, and it is characterized by mutation and mitosis. In fact the bodies represented in METACHAOS, even though they are characterized by an apparently anthropomorphous appearance, in reality they are without identity and conscience. They exist confined in a spaceless and timeless state, an hostile and decadent hyperuranium where a fortress, in perpetual movement, dominates the landscape in defense of a supercelestial, harmonic but fragile parallel dimension. In its destructive instinct of violating the dimensional limbo, the mutant horde penetrates the intimacy of the fortress, laying siege like a virus. Similar to the balance of a philological continuum in human species, bringing the status of things back to the primordial broth.
… The irrational gesture and action of the bodies, as if a collective form of madness controlled them, are inspired by artists like Bosch and Bruegel who, between the ‘400 and ‘500, produced an iconography where irrational images show sickly madness and pain.
The film was awarded the Golden Nica (the highest prize) in the Prix Ars Electronica 2011, last year’s installment of the prestigious yearly prize in the field of electronic and interactive art, computer animation, digital culture and music. The jury statement from the Ars Electronica does a fine job of describing the film — as fine as one could hope, anyway, for such a virtually indescribable artistic manifestation:
The 8-minute clip begins with a sequence of clear, geometric forms that suggest a serene world. But it doesn’t take long until it’s apparent that this was just the calm before the storm. Shadowy creatures and shockingly grotesque figures intrude into this domain rendered in black & white and sepia tones and rip it to pieces. Using the interplay of light and shadow, intentionally shaky camera movements and quick cuts, Bavari takes us on a tour de force through an unsettling imaginary cosmos that grips viewers and doesn’t let them loose. In addition to its extraordinary visuals, “Metachaos” features an impressive composed soundscape of incredibly concentrated intensity — noise elements paired with driving beats, panic-stricken screams, the rattling of bones and gale-force winds.
While some of as did not necessarily share the apocalyptic view of this film, we found that it left the most indelible impression … What starts as a cinematic, kinetik, yet clean field of geometry and bodies, gradually evolves, or devolves, into the artist’s vision of a nightmarish black-and-white world created by a continual collision of the human and the architectural form. It finally culminates in a screaming dance among the ruins.
Trust us: This on demands full immersion. Find a time when you can fullscreen it and turn the volume way up. Seldom has the apocalyptic undercurrent of human life been so powerfully portrayed.