Look Inside the Ghost Machine (2012)

By Mónica Delgado

The last International Showcase of Audiovisual Appropiation-MUTA, realized in Lima, has allowed us to watch the work of Hungarian filmmaker Péter Lichter (1984), who has centered his career in found footage and abstract experimental cinema since the year 2002. We could also watch his last fiction feature, Frozen May, in the last Lima Independiente Film Festival, a film which marks a different bet, inside the codes of genre film and horror, through a story that is played from the POV of a subjective camera and the atmospheres of wintery woods.

The Lichter Focus in MUTA grouped eight Works realized between 2009 and 2017. Light-sleep (2009) is remarkable in how it utilizes topics of pornographic vintage cinema, to créate an analogy with the decay of film and its organic and liquid texture. One could read Light-sleep like a sort of sensory predecessor of Tcherkassky’s The Exquisite Corpus (2015), in the use of an erotic value which is exacerbated with the rhythm of the film material manipulation. The film also reminds one of Naomi Uman’s Removed (1999), in her plastic intervention of erotic and pornographic narrative, though different in the achievement of the political effect of the use of women as sexualized objects that the American artist’s film has.

In Light-sleep the feminine bodies, acquire the ephemeral materiality of the frame, exposed in their nudity to this frailty of the support, which can expand or boil at any time. Bodies fusioned to the elasticity or texture of the celluloid, faces in ecstasy willing to blow up in the same deformed extension of the frame.

In Look inside the ghost machine (2012), Lichter applies some of Light-sleep techniques to age the Super 8 frame, but here the intention is to evoke the primal side of film as a machine of phantasmagoric images, where bodies, faces, quotidian figures, are shown inside this immense veil provoked by the chemical part which deteriorates. Thus the use of black and white, which helps to push Lichter’s idea to the past, to the experiments of early 20th century, where all the things that are captured are shown in its primal cinematic dimension, letting themselves being seen and observed for the first time.

In Rimbaud (2014), that despite the name, is related to Polaroids (2015) in the collage and use of diverse images for a determined discourse. If in Polaroids Lichter appropriates different home movies to give life to a poem by Simon Márton, in Rimbaud, the filmmaker elaborates an essay about some events of the famous French poet through his journeys to Africa, achieving a simulacra of an impressionist travel journal that could be the material governing the poet’s momentum in his days as trafficker and apostate poet.

In Lichter’s more recent works one can see evidence of his turn towards humor from the sound montage, which in Non-Places: Beyond the Infinite (2016) is supported in the circular movements of a black and white rugged camera, while hearing the mythical sound of Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey’s monolith, creating a sci-fi nostalgic atmosphere. Meanwhile, in Some of the Sensations (2017), the initial moments of a William Castle’s horror film are fusioned with aged images from Michael Bay’s Transformers, achieving a visual architecture of parallels and correspondences, which is only unveiled in its hilarity when at the end of the short film the credits of the after mentioned films are shown.

In less of ten years of work, Lichter has shown versatility and a longing for the experimentation of different forms of appropriation, especially from the Super 8, achieving the materialization of personal universes that traverse the premises of some finished objects to transform them in new ways of showing the intimate or the familiar.