Mütter – Mikel Guillen

By José Sarmiento Hinojosa

Obscuritads is a collective of three filmmakers: Scott Barley, from Wales, Mikel Guillen, based in Toronto, Canada and Sebastian Wiedemann, from Brazil. The first program launched by the collective and curated by Miquel Escudero Diéguez, was premiered at La Générale, Paris, the past 27th and 28th of July. In their presentation, Obscuritads claims to be formed by filmmakers “with very different methods (…) they find themselves in the radicality of their intentions. The more powerful forces of life are invisible. They want to make visible the invisible by focusing on the oscillations between the soul and the stars, the moon, the tides, what is pure in what is raw. Light and darkness are the main characters in their films.”

Three films were presented in their second session:  Onda (Sebastian Wiedemann), Mütter (Mikel Guillen) and Sleep Has Her House (Scott Barley). Both Barley and Guillén seem to synchronize in their intentions, in a cinema that regards darkness as the pivoting point of their narrative, in slow, calculated impulses that seem to resonate with the primal forces of nature, or human nature. There’s a meditative reflection on the passage of landscape in Barley’s film (arguably the most accomplished piece of the bunch), a nostalgia for the sublime, a romantic gesture that enables the grandeur of drama in flux. This unveiling of the true dimension of nature via digital zooming, vanishes the irruptive presence of mankind to discover a local cluster of matter that breathes and pulsates on its own. Barley’s camera (an Iphone, of all devices) acts as the everlasting hand of god, as the biblical tale of creation, as an announcement -let there be light, or -let there be darkness, the genesis of the image, not submitting to it, but claiming it in the digital media that transforms the remnants of light into binary, and releases it back to the screen.

Mikel Guillén’s Mütter works better when it abandons itself to the influence of the image, when it deals with observation rather than intention. The hand of the creator, while tangible, needs to become invisible eventually, and Mütter tends to betray itself in periods of time, when the intention of the filmmaker is exposed: creation. However, Guillén’s work does have moments of clarity and beauty, it’s digital imagery of violent clouds or the fixation of the oneiric.

Wiedemann’s work is a piece of beauty but also somewhat divorced from its companion pieces, in times so much that one tends to question what is the logic of this collective (specially watching other Wiedemann’s films like Los Dependientes) beyond an appreciation for the radical. Ondas is a wonderful work of light which owes its materiality to Brakhage’s period of painting in celluloid and its spirituality to the metaphysics of the myth, akin to works like The Dante Quartet, the visual phenomena of waves that relate to the intrinsic movement of light itself, or to the rhythm of the tides in the ocean. It’s a work that deals with genesis, but almost in an opposite way to Barley’s work. While both are obsessed with the primal forces of nature, the Gothic atmospheres of Barley and the lukewarm lightwaves of Weidemann stand in opposite sides of the spectrum.

Though I celebrate the formation of this collective, I’m still wishing for a greater congruence in their proposal, something that I believe the group will achieve in time. For now, one is left to appreciate the individual efforts of these outstanding young filmmakers, a present promise for the future of cinema.