19 Jun 2020

Homo Sapiens Project (157) (Rouzbeh Rashidi, 2013)

☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼ out of 10☼


Recently released for free viewing on Experimental Film Society's official Vimeo Channel, 157th piece of the extensive and awe-inspiring Homo Sapiens Project is nothing short of a creative milestone in Rouzbeh Rashidi's two decade long career. As such, it deserves a more detailed write-up than the short paragraph it got in the second volume of my essay for EFS Publications.

Opening to wolves' howling and wind whispering to the trees (psithurism is the term which describes this particular sound), with the eye of a hand-held camera following Maximilian Le Cain (or his enigmatic character?) down a dirt road, the film operates like a found-footage horror or rather, a parody/deconstruction of the sub-genre. At one point, the man - as if possessed by a ghost - switches from 'strolling' to 'spinning around' mode and after he makes himself dizzy, the first thing he holds onto is the camera which, in turn and by virtue of soft focus, transforms him into something akin to an alien entity. Through the simplest of means involving an anti-illusionary act, the filmmaker's main tool is attributed with magical/alchemical properties.

A sudden, black screen cut relocates the viewer to a welcoming rural estate (somewhere in Spain) where we see the author himself (or his alter ego?) playing with a dog and a cat whose unexpected appearances portend the end of nocturnal overture. What initially seems to be a hazy, leisure-fueled day captured in long, beautifully composed takes is rendered ominous in the uncanny symbiosis of dark, droning soundscapes and fiery palette of hypnotizing yellows and oranges that gradually evoke a pre-apocalyptic atmosphere. At once an 'oblique diary' and (sci-fi?) mystery deepened by increasingly suspicious behavior of Le Cain's film-persona, HSP (157) erases the boundaries between documentary and fiction, plunging us into a wholly cinematic, extremely personal universe which exists both inside and outside of Luminous Void. 'The film is the film itself', as Rashidi claims, and sometimes it doesn't need to be anything more than that - an uncompromising, self-sufficient audio-visual experience.

However, it does manage to outgrow its purpose, in order to merge with (the filmmaker's) life into a silent, whimsical, absorbing Oneness. Hard to put into words, this 'phantasmal anomaly' - an Ouroboros of an unidentified, flickering dimension - equates 'image' with 'idea' and celebrates its immeasurable potency.

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