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Berline 2006.indd

Berline 2006.indd

IN COMPETITIONnone of us

IN COMPETITIONnone of us seem to notice, but LailaPakalniņa does. She never usesthe crutches of computer graphicsand never averts her gaze, so thepictures we get are crisp and clear.As she puts it: “Today you can dojust about anything in film, but itwill be CGI. But it is also possible todo challenging things without thatartificial form. “Live cinema” is morecinematic than one constructed in acomputer.”• In Pakalniņa’s case, “physicalfilmmaking” is a value that will notdeflate when the next generationof computer chips emerge. Assimple as the story set-up is, thetechnical achievements in Waterreveal themselves to an experiencedviewer. Long-time collaborator,director of photography, GintsBērziņš, assisted by the underwaterexpertise of cinematographer,Kaspars Braķis, has done fine workin presenting the subjective feelof being in another reality. Thehigh-points include a 360-degreeunderwater panorama and therefined POV of the swimmer aboveand below the water’s surface,“stop-watched” by people in blacktrousers standing at the edge of thepool.• Sometimes the director’sobservation of events happeningwithin the frame reminds us ofthe notion of detached gaze fromthe Japanese No theatre, whichAkira Kurosawa spoke of in regardsto directing. Except that here it’sturned into a philosophy of life.We could name it the philosophyof observation. If you’d ask for themain principles in this philosophy I’dsay there are none. A detached gazeis needed – one that doesn’t makeany judgements or comments. It’salmost like reciting Peking Operawhile looking at a blank sheet ofpaper. You have to let go of all yourexpectations and concentrate onsensing the rhyme and rhythm.• How does it work in Water? Thisis a challenging question for LailaPakalniņa, and she comments:“Whatever I will explain to filmcritics about the meaning of whattakes place in Water would ruinthe experience for audience. I’vemade it open, so those who watchit can fill it with their own meanings.The main thing is – feel free whenwatching it!” She compares thefilmmaking process to the feeling ofbeing in water – you experience adifferent reality.• So don’t ask her why five vintageSoviet milk trucks are bringing fishto a pool in Water. And I wouldn’task why a big, black, ominousMercedes-Benz is chasing a boywith a baby carriage in a parkinglot, and why the chase sounds likea Russian troika with a carriageattached gliding across a snowyplain.• Sometimes Water is reminiscentof Jacques Tati’s comedy, wherethe detailed little gags and stuntsmake the narrative line run likea spider’s thread strung on fineneedle-points. Except that thesubject is as broad as water. At

IN COMPETITIONother times it plays out like a theatreof the absurd. Although that art formseems old-fashioned compared withwhat happens in Water. Parts ofthe story derive their meaning froma subtle interplay of meanings youinvent for them. Is she serious? Isshe playing? Is she there at all? Onlythe small “pay-offs” at the end ofeach scene suggest that there isa behind-the-screen presence – adirector with her own very distinctmindset and view of the world.• At a time when cinema is largelyconsidered a story-driven medium,new film may seem, Laila Pakalniņamakes us wake-up to a reality thatis more real than the well-structured“reality” of the story-driven, musicand dialogue pumped screenexperiences we call films. There isalmost no dialogue in Water. Justone key scene that unlocks the storyfeatures a short dialogue betweenthe heroine and the person on dutywho registers attendance at thepool. The rest of Pakalniņa’s offeredworld is created by the subtleinterplay of sounds and the mostlystatic framing of the mis-en-scene.Zalila, member of the FIPRESCI Juryat Venice 2003, put it so precisely:“Laila Pakalniņa teases the viewer’svoyeurism by not allowing him tosee things and actions he knowsare off-screen. The eagerness ofthe viewer progressively turns intoa kind of sweet abandonment intothe hands of the filmmaker, and theoff-screen becomes a space fromwhere anything and everything mayhappen.”• Water may seem intellectual tothose who are intellectual. It mayseem symbolic for those who areWater questions the very natureof film. Laila Pakalniņa’s film offersa challenge and brings back the“cinematic experience” – withexperience being the prime interest.An interest in catching a passingmoment. But this is not Faust’scry for the moment to last forever.Pakalniņa lets moments slip by forothers to follow, and even morestimulating and absurd, she offersenjoyment of these moments anddoesn’t dramatise by the rules ofstory-driven thinking.• Water makes one recall thebeginnings of cinema – thatinnocence of perception. Thereis a film by Laila Pakalniņa calledWake up! (2000). It not only offersa slice of the social heritage leftby the Soviet army in a militaryharbour town, but it also follows thegames and simple fun that the kidspresently living there are indulgingin. The kind of perceptive innocencethat makes one want to shout– wake up! – this is real cinema. Thisis cinema as it may have been atits very beginning. As unreal as herLatvian film director Varis Braslaonce said that we’ll never fullyunderstand women – they havea different logic and can easilyhave seven Fridays in one week.As much as one may not like tonote the difference of sexes in thedirector’s chair, this is a case in pointwhere we can’t escape it. I’d arguethat one has to have a woman’sperception in order to create thesubtle world of aural experience weget in Water – the fine touches ofthe almost surreal sound experience.It can be called sound imagery – atapestry so delicate that one beat ofdisharmony would ruin it.• The notion of life happeningsomewhere else pops into mindwhen you’re immersed in the realityof Pakalniņa’s film. Your visualsenses are stripped of the usualoverdose and the minimalistic misen-scenedraws your attention toa world of mainly off-screen soundcreating a reality beyond the one yousee on the screen – although thissense of the other world does havea touch of humour behind it. As Ikbalinto film semiotics. It is full of signsand yet very pure at the sametime. It reads on the level that thespectator is prepared to read. Thismay be one of the most interestingand intriguing things about Water – itis wholesomely unpretentious, butreads very intellectually at the sametime. It could provoke a discussionamong those who considerthemselves cineastes, making onewonder – is it a new frontier? Is thiswhere the cinema of the future isheading? Can it be the pure VJ-ing ofsenses and meanings?WaterBY LAILA PAKALNIŅA11/02/2006 19.00 CinemaxX 312/02/2006 22.00 CinemaxX 313/02/2006 13.00 CinemaxX 315/02/2006 13.00 CinemaxX 319/02/2006 19.00 CinemaxX 35

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