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Saturday, August 03, 2019

Rooftop under construction (contemplative video)

Building (2014/Arthur Caria/Brazil)1'58"

This shot is not only Black & White, but devoid of greyscale as well. Strictly pure black and pure white. For the most part. We notice a shadow on the bottom right corner which divulges a possible video effect used to saturate the contrast to the max. With an odd canted angle this view could be a photograph of the Soviet Constructivism. The aesthetic is sublime. But it is very frontal. This scene is a black cardboard cutout (pure shadow) against a white background (pure light) as only a camera could see it. These minuscule silhouettes remind me of the fine paper cutting of one Lotte Reiniger (The Adventures of Prince Ahmed/1926). But these stickmen aren't animation, this is real life.

From a high vantage point we observe the last level of a building under construction, and a team of busy workers : 8 on top and a couple more on the lower levels (they are caged in a prison of wires). The handheld camera emphasizes the voyeur point of view of a James Stewart in Rear Window (1954).The telelens and the monochromy flatten the perspective and hang the characters as if on a clothline. Their walking around looks even more perious than it probably is. It's like if all of them walked the edge of a wall top, and were about to fall to their death. Yet they hang around with the most natural decontraction. Look at this one kneeling over. See that one crawling on all four. This is scary!

From time to time appears the steel bars left naked awaiting for the next concrete pillars to be poured in for a higher level. These are like weapons erected to kill. And the workers, like magicians, pass through without harm, seamlessly. If you look carefully, you could see a white reflection coming from above, on their hats, shoulders and backs. Especially when they move one over the other, the white delimitation can still define the silhouettes mixed together.

Then the zoom comes in and reaches closer. Two guys hold a hammer. Another two roll up a rope or a wire. Others stand there idling. But who is the boss? It is difficult to tell. One seems to talk while others around him listen. He's got their attention. But look at the one crawling, he's now bending over the edge and slaming a hammer downstairs. This one will surely fall over.
We contemplate their whereabouts without sound, without words, and figure out bit by bit what is going on, who they are, what they want... This is the power of minimalist narration.

Part of a series of "One-Shot-Video-Poems" filmed in 2015 by Arthur Caria. See his website Cinemática Expositiva for more clipoems like this one. Or Unheimlich here.


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