- 25.6.2012 8:00 -
Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark
The film debut by the renowned Rafani art collective deals with a tangle of various relations on the axis between “the centre and the periphery”. Though the theme is not new and unusual in contemporary documentary film, what makes 31 Endings/31 Beginnings interesting and indisputably original is the way it is treated; which, in turn, makes its theme convincing as well.
The film treatise, as the Rafani art collective label their work, features 21 personalities representing Prague’s “official” alternative culture; visual artists, musicians, graphic artists, theorists and activists; as well as their sphere of activity, the city of Prague as both a product and intersection of life and culture. In its form, it reflects the trends and ways of contemporary urbanism and city planning. We do not live in a world of modernist transparency any longer. Rather than observing the shape of the city from a helicopter window, it is more interesting to get immersed in it; to become part of it while losing the complete view. The cities of the 21st century seem to grow on their own; it is not easy to control their development, influence their structure, let alone delimit their borders. They are organisms mutually perfoliated by seemingly unrelated elements which defy any definition. As if they started to resemble the primeval forests. (“The forest is the greatest hi-tech,” says graphic artist and musician Vladimir 518). Is that not a description of contemporary art? The notion of the city as a metaphor of life and art has become the focus of cinematography very early after its formation. In this respect, the Rafani collective do not come up with anything new but rather follow up film classics such as Berlin: Symphony of a Metropolis (1927), Man with a Movie Camera (1929) and Aimless Walk (1930). However, they do so by contemporary means and in the language of contemporary art. They make an account of today; or rather of the present moment of creation. Interestingly, their film is both up-to-date and passé. The importance of the moment is emphasized by the way Rafani lead a “dialogue” with the protagonists. The interviewed personalities are provided with a rather limited space to express their opinion, framed by severe editing which often mercilessly cuts off the utterance right in the middle of a sentence. As if the filmmakers wanted to hint to the visitors not to understand their work merely as the above mentioned Prague’s cultural service. Rafani definitely do not provide a service for culture vultures; their film is not intended for a programme slot on the second channel of Czech Television between a live broadcast from the Rudolfinum concert hall and a report from an art opening in the National Gallery. It is only characteristic how much space is taken up by fade-outs in the film. What is lurking in darkness and silence is more questions rather than answers. Thus 31 Endings/31 Beginnings is a film primarily for those spectators who are not afraid of the darkness (of meaning).