Sunday, August 26, 2007

Lothringen!

"Would that I could gather your houses into my hand, and like a sower scatter them in forest and meadow.

Would the valleys were your streets, and the green paths your alleys, that you might seek one another through vineyards, and come with the fragrance of the earth in your garments."


-Khalil Gibran, The Prophet: Houses


For their 21-minute film, Lothringen! (1994), Straub and Huillet return to Straub's place of birth, Metz, in the Lorraine region (in German: Lothringen) in the northeast of France. All their films that I've seen are landscape films in some respect, and this is no exception. Horizontal axes anchor the images in almost every frame: horizons, borders, lines of confluence between rivers, roads, villages, valleys, distant mountains, the sky, just as vertical structures emerge and announce their materiality: trees, lamp posts, statues, bodies. And the wind that blows through the landscape, as resisting and absolute as the voices of the two characters* (he is German, she is French, in a post-1870 War encounter), in a seemingly concise summation of Maurice Barrès' Colette Baudoche (which I haven't read) - the 'narrative' in the film existing outside the panoramic shots of the countryside, captured in spectacular slow pans in either direction (the spectacle, the surprise of discovery through sight and sound as potent here as in any other Straub-Huillet film) that recall their earlier Too Early, Too Late. Lothringen! appears to be a reflection on Metz, its history and geography (Lorraine borders with three other countries including Germany, where Straub's reported self-exile will take him during the Algerian War, and the film was made in separate French and German versions) and, to an extent, I think, a blurring of the margins associated with this landscape, thus resisting Barrès' nationalist text.

(* or are they phantoms, or perhaps mythical creatures, who have wandered through time - Colette's costumes intact! - into one that resembles ours...?)


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