17 October 2009

Location: Filmtheater ‘t Hoogt
Hall 1

“Speed is the form of ecstasy the technical revolution has bestowed on man. (…) When man delegates the faculty of speed to a machine: from then on, his own body is outside the process, and he gives over to
a speed that is noncorporeal, nonmaterial, pure speed, speed itself, ecstasy speed. A curious alliance: the cold impersonality of technology with all the flames of ecstasy.”
– Milan Kundera


Belgian speed racer Camille Jenatzy was the first man to break the 100 km/h barrier in 1899. The car he entered history with was called “La Jamais Contente”. Never satisfied: modernity in a nutshell. The insatiable hunger for machine speed, as the motor for progress, but also as a sensuous experience, is the central theme of this programme. The arrival of trains, cars, airplanes and space shuttles changed irrevocably the relation- ship between time and space. It increased the speed with which bodies could move across space and dramatically shortened the time involved. But this increase of speed brings along contradictions, paradoxes and dangers….



Rallentando – Guy Sherwin
United Kingdom, 2000, 16mm, 9:00 min
Accelerating and decelerating rhythms taken from a train as it enters a station. Sound is adapted from Honneger’s orchestral work ‘Pacific 231’. Rallentando is part of Sherwin’s Train Films, which he will present during IMPAKT in the form of a film performance (see ‘Dopes to Infinity’). Inspired by the movements and parallax effects of objects appearing to cross each other when viewed from a moving train, as well as by the parallels between film form and train journeys, these films have titles which denote specific musical forms; Canon, Stretto, or instructions; Da Capo, Rallentando.

Hong Kong (HKG) – Gerard Holthuis
The Netherlands, 1999, 35mm, 13:00 min
The city of Hong Kong is often seen as a living example of the Virilian notion of ‘speed’. “Change takes place in present-day Hong Kong in ways that do not merely disturb our sense of time but completely upset and reverse it. (…) It suggest[s] a space traversed by different times and speeds”. (Ackbar Abbas). In 1998 Kai Tak airport in the middle of Hong Kong was closed. Approaching Kai Tak was a unique experience for the passengers. “One could read the newspapers in the street” one passenger exclaimed. In Hong Kong (HKG) Holthuis films the approach and the passing by of the airplanes in the middle of a city. An observation at the end of this century. Music by David Byrne.

Routemaster: Theatre of the Motor – Ilppo Pohjola
Finland, 2000, 35mm, 13:00 min
Routemaster – Theatre of the Motor is a filmic portrait of speed consisting of strobe-like, fast-flickering shots, and grainy, monochrome images of speeding rally cars. While Pohjola’s Asphalto was still concerned with human interactions, here the absence of humanity is total: what remains are the machines in movement that is an end in itself. The rhythmic structure is provided by slow- motion, close-up shots of checkered flags, repeated at regular, mathematical intervals, with passing shades of blue providing almost the only colour in the film. At times, the accelerating speed of the images makes it painful to watch the film, like a sort of visual Blitzkrieg waged on the human nervous system through the viewer’s tortured retinas.

Mer dare / Our Century – Artavazd Pelechian
Armenia (USSR), 1982, 35mm, 50:00 min
Pelechian’s Our Century is a masterful montage of archive footage of space travel, edited with images from the beginnings of manned flight. A meditation on the space race, the Soviets’ and Americans’ Icarus Dream, the deformed faces of astronauts undergoing acceleration, the imminent catastrophe…. Our century is the century of conquests and genocides, the century of vanity. The absurdity of Man’s totalitarian inclination to colonise and occupy worlds. A philosophical film-poem; Pelechian works his images as if they were a musical score. A symphony about humanity, nature and the cosmos.


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