By Monica Delgado

Divided into three parts, Afterwater is a feature film that configures a world based on the texture of formats. In this second work, the Serbian filmmaker and artist based in Berlin, Dane Komljen, chooses a topic and an even group of characters to explore some dimensions of space and time, in three episodes that distill stories and corporalities around the figure of a lake , and from three different supports.

Presented within the program of Forum, a parallel section of the 72nd edition of the Berlin Film Festival, the film begins with a kind of introduction, in the city, from the monitoring of a couple of biology students or similar interested in limnology, the study of lakes. After leaving the university space, we see them going to a train station and then traveling to some remote area. Arriving at the lake, somewhere in Berlin, they establish a dynamic in harmony with the natural environment. Calm views of the place, walks through the woods, punctual conversations inside the tent, reading poems aloud or bathing in the lake. This Edenic land is being completed with the arrival of a third party, turning the idea of ??paradise into a new community and peaceful Arcadia, or at least of a triad united by the influence of this bucolic and solitary space. This episode is presented from a digital record (also remarkably composed).

In the second episode, the interaction of the trio of characters is maintained, but this time by the hand of a priest and a couple, who wander along the shores of a lake somewhere in Spain. Here, unlike the previous episode, voiceovers are heard in Spanish, (which we understand come from the characters seen in large panoramic shots), which read fragments of literary stories, and which, according to the filmmaker, were taken from some work of Miguel de Unamuno. These reflections or poetic voices introduce a new concept to the idea of arcadia, that of submerged cities, either as a mythical possibility or as a dystopian route from a pessimistic feeling. This second part was made in 16 millimeters.

And the third episode is a choreography in a forest and a lake from three characters, dancers in a state of abstraction, posing with their movements, gestures and bodies, the fusion of nature and presence. Texts appear to form an omniscient narrator, accompanying what the dance of these bodies transmits. This last part is made in analog video.

Beyond the relationship that he explores from the connection between the characters and their dependence on the state of nature or the territory that surrounds them, as happens in All the cities of the North, his first feature, in Afterwater, there is a close correspondence between the materiality of these bodies, either as peaceful figures, as archetypes, or as dancers under the influence of a musical order that we barely perceive, with the format in which these experiences are recorded. And it is significant that precisely the most poetic episode (the third), that of the abstraction or choreography of bodies, is covered by the imperfection of analog video. As if this impoverished image was the only way to connect these bodies with the land or the lake itself (or his idea). The rarefaction from this opacity.

Jenny Lou Ziegel’s photographic work makes each shot of Afterwater a unique experience. The composition, the sense of framing and the visual power of these bodies in a natural stage, are not only crossed by a type of romanticism, back to the origin of things, but by a necessary and progressive assembly of bodies, landscape and environment. From the first episode to the last, Dane Komljen offers us a reflection from this triad of media, from digital, film and analog, as material, physical and emotional stages to dream and reach submerged cities.

Script and direction: Dane Komljen
Photography: Jenny Lou Ziegel
Editing: Dane Komljen
Sound design: Jakov Munižaba, Linus Nickl
Sound: Johannes Schmelzer-Ziringer, Jordi Ribas
Costume designer: Isabelle Lange
Producer: Zsuzsanna Kiràly
Germany, South Korea, Spain and Serbia, 2022, 93 min