15th European Documentary Film Symposiums
Film d'Auteur.
European Documentary Film Symposium. 25 years
Agris Redovics Film Theorist Latvia
Cinema d'Auteur. Cul-de-sac of Theory

When I made for the first view of this symposium I was absolutely sure I knew everything about cinema d’Auteur. Before that I had read several articles, several books which authors did not underestimate their abilities to pinpoint cinema d’Auteur out of the whole multitude of the cinematography. I really felt so inspired and comprehended with this such a fine aim: I’ll go, observe, look into it, grasp it, and everything will be clear. But the more I watched these programs, the further this clearness stepped away, the less I knew what cinema d’Auteur is. To comfort myself I asked this question several notable participants of the symposium. The answers I got differed very much, some were even diametrically opposed, and I could not draw any theoretical conclusions out of this. Still, after this, perhaps, unrepresentative survey, three myths or cul-de-sacs of theory which try to explain what cinema d’Auteur is stood out.

The first myth or cul-de-sac, in my opinion, finds a basis on a very familiar way of connecting cinema d’Auteur with the development in the field of technology, and as if the technology revolution, which awards us with the instrument to approach a human and even to get inside him, reflects the meaning of cinema d’Auteur. And really, even respectable directors, who could not even think of touching a camera in the old iron times, but would only tell a camera man “Go”- and a camera man would go following the look of a director- now are operating with the camera themselves, they’re filming and everything comes out so smooth, and he retires into his shelf. It can be said that the authorship of the film makers gets closer to the authorship of a writer, composer, artist, to his individual creative freedom. Perhaps, we can assume that the possibilities of an author rise proportionally to the development of the film making equipment. There’s this increasing sense of freedom which allows to investigate thoroughly the most intimate spaces of the reality, the most hidden places. Shall this penetration into the mystery get materialized on the screen, the screen still fails to distinguish the evidences which could provide with the possibility to point out the author’s canon as a special token of the community. What about flash back? First of all, it is the expression of the extreme subjectivity. A subjectivity, which verges on the borders of the possibilities of a human, which verges on the tragic elements, verges on that narrow streak between inferno and paradise. Revelation of a personality released from the traditional conventions will be regarded to as the defining feature of cinema d’Auteur, then in such a way we will narrow this definition down. Second of all, intimate diaries as a way of narration affords also imitation, which was clearly visible in the film “Who offer the song to?”, which is represented to us as the chronicle of a concrete investigative journey, while in reality the reflection of this journey may differ from the real feelings of the author a way too much. When we watch a film, this is actually not important, it matters in such an abstract vision as the possibilities of cinema d’Auteur.

The second cul-de-sac, the second possibility is to define cinema d’Auteur in relation to the objective reality. It is obvious that the documentary operates with the blocks of reality, and, contrary to other forms of art, in the documentary the fragments of reality are much more relief, mannered, capacious, they comprise the meaning of life itself. In the literary text an essay is outlined in the range of words which with more or less proximity- it depends on the skills of an author- creates the image of an event, place, or person. The recording of the audio reality reflects the pulsation of feelings in the form of the musical text. A picture gives the reflection of the fragment of reality in the form of colors and play on lights and shadows, but only the documentary is able to fixate and depict inexhaustibility of the being, right up to the physiological effect it produces on the recipient. One of the cinema d’Auteur theories affirms that depending on what extent a film deforms the reality, on what extend the reality is subjected to the will or ideas of the author, this very justified assertion appears to be insufficient to define cinema d’Auteur. Here we saw two films which the abstract idea was visualized in. There was a Czech film “Nonstop” by Ian Gogol, which interpreted the sense of infinity, interminable continuity. The Danish film “War” narrated about the meaningless of wars and their victims in the context of the nowadays civilization. Ian Lofteger, who created the film “War”, by different means, using archives and the facts of the terrors of war- both documentary observations and interviews- invested all his creative energy to show us once again the absurd nature of a war. Fragments of reality here are subjected the qualitative definition of some kind of an idea. Part of the gestures, of the esthetical gestures of the author was really original, but the aesthetic suspense at times brought along the trivial message. And still, while one part of the mankind would destroy each other on the battle fields, the other one- much smaller and less strong- would keep on telling what an evil a war is. And these masterpieces would lay next to the other similar narration, and the wars would go on.

In the film “Nonstop” as if mutually unconnected contemplation over the abstract definitions is just a way to get us acquainted with the definitions of the modern Czech life, with the way of thinking of the Czech people. And this intellectual provocation is a game which gives us an opportunity to create an idea of vibrations from the being on this highway. Prague Bruno. Although sometimes difficult, for it’s hard to watch philosophical contemplation too much, you can read, but watching is difficult. But in spite of this difficulties, I think that this is an example of the game which with its essence gives us a chance to imagine the being.

To a greater or lesser extent the deformed reality appears practically in every film. The choice of the point of view itself alters the completeness of the reality. For instance, Vitaly Mansky in the film “Broadway. Black Sea. Russia” creates such nostalgic natural images of unorganized leisure people. And I feel that these are hyperbolized fragments of the reality which are pressed in such a physiologically exciting narration. And contrary to “Nonstop”, to create an idea of the modern life not an intellectual game, but "vitally” saturated manners of expression are used. He impressed me with that so greatly that I couldn’t fall asleep after that.

Also Alexey Gutman in the film “Frescos” very patiently puts in order fragments of the reality. Here is a deformation with right opposite sign, and in the surrounding reality the author takes only what corresponds to the chosen pace and the intonation, even the super sensual proximity to the mysteries of the life after death of the characters- this is what justifies the presence of these elements of “aesthetisation”. But the reality is deformed, and along with the intervention into the heroes lives virtually every portrait represents the deformed reality, the personality is separated from the context, and we witnessed three scintillating examples, in which the hero was situated in the conditions we saw him in only owing to the will of the film maker. This is a Swedish film “Stockholm-75”, “Arnold”, “Russian Cross”. In in all the three films the authors put a protagonist, like a chess figure, on the field which, according to the opinion of the film maker, is the most corresponding to the combination which is envisaged by the film maker. For sure, Zhenov is a great actor, and a tragic destiny, but sometimes I feel pity for him, for just the will of the film maker pushes him from one place to another.

The third, to my mind, myth or cul-de-sac which appears at the definition of the cinema d’Auteur can be distinguished as “against the stream”, “against the wind”, as if the alternative cinema- against the mainstream. Before it felt in the political context- against the regime, against ideology, against the stream of the television which takes away everything, but, let’s say, Verba shot a magnificent film about the song festival, Seet shot a wonderful film about the Midnight night, and Cogan shot a great film about the silent steel, and to compare these films- what a different layers of reality are depicted here! And does this exhaust the author’s possibilities? Does it give a possibility to define cinema d’Auteur? I don’t think so, because the same layer can be shot diametrically opposite: ideologically restrained, about the labor heroes etc- this is equally delicate layer.

So, what conclusion can be drawn from these fragmentary visions? The conclusion, to my mind, is very evident: there’s no cinema d’Auteur. There are authors and their number is getting more and more, and they see more and can tell more about the surrounding reality, but I still reckon that the core of the authorship was defined by Michel Foucault in the introduction I have already mentioned “?????????” in the 1960, where he said about such image: “Authors are like flickering bulbs around the discourse, which separates one author from another one”. Frank from Tseletkis, let’s say, etc.

And the last thing. I suppose the world cannot exist without God or without its creator. Likewise, art cannot exist without its author, and author is not a diminishing entity, author is eternally inherent, eternally primordial entity in the art, because shall an author not create the new reality, there would be no art.



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