REVIEW: Robots or Ghosts

For all the talk of ‘collective memory’ and ‘universality of emotions’ on Macba’s notes it is the isolation and the drudgery that for me made Sejla Kameric’s version of the film 1395 Days without Red the more engrossing and haunting of the two films.

Created in conjunction with Albanian filmmaker Anri Sala (left), the film project edited the same material into two very distinctive versions. Sala’s tries to be more emotive and in doing so allows us distance. His version of survival is defiant; protagonists are stoical robots who smile triumphantly having succeeded in racing across open spaces without being shot. There is a theatrical sense of the unreal, as if the only means of survival was to see things as a game and the rises and falls of the music slide with the mood as a film’s soundtrack does. Perhaps in a sense this is the less human version of the siege. A state that cannot be accepted for what it is.

Sejla Kameric, a Sarajevan who lived through the siege in her teens shows us less, cuts earlier and presents a city haunted by its inhabitants; isolated individuals who cluster in the shadows in fear of the sunlight. Tchaikovsky’s theme seems urgent, sinister, hesitant or grinding. There is purpose in the need to get somewhere, but all sense of time and progress has been lost. There’s no euphoric affirmation of life in this survival, bland equilibrium is found in an almost trivial state of insecurity, amidst urban abandonment and ugliness. Strangely, though, for the muted emotions, there is more empathy induced and more awareness of the other; I started thinking: would I take courage in the survival of others? Or would I see it as a form of competition where the chances of my death rise with each other’s safe crossing?

This is my review. Adrian Searle’s review in The Guardian is here.