Sep 25, 2019

In the Arbor of the Bitter Orange (Sarahjane Swan & Roger Simian, 2017)

☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼ out of 10☼

One of the most alchemikal collaborations between contemporary experimental filmmakers, In the Arbor of the Bitter Orange exudes with joy and love for creation. Beautifully shot on monochrome Super 8 by Scottish duo of Sarahjane Swan and Roger Simian aka Avant Kinema, it stars Daniel Fawcett and Clara Pais of The Underground Film Studio as a dandy, enigmatic couple harboring a great desire for the titular fruit which grows in the secret garden of a seemingly abandoned house.

Part (neo)surrealist exercise and part poetic exploration of the moving images' power, this seven-minute 'fantasy' enchants with its cinematic purity and sublime simplicity. The locations of the small seaside town of Espinho, Portugal, have a timeless quality attached to them, and the same goes for the quaint black and white visuals that give the impression of a long-lost film from the last century. They have a perfect accompaniment in the haunting, meditative soundscape - Gustav Holst's Venus reconstructed by The Bird And The Monkey (Swan & Simian's music-producing moniker) - lending the film its mysterious appeal.

Daniel & Clara have a whale of a time in their roles, especially during the orange-devouring scene which elicits a comedian out of Mr. Fawcett. Although credited as performers, they do not act, but rather live the slightly twisted reality from their colleagues' (impromptu) vision. After the super-grainy footage rolls backwards, their characters disappear in the rippled surface of the water (in a barrel?), suggesting their short adventure was but a slippery dream.

(The review is based on the private screener provided by the authors.)

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