Jul 7, 2020

Homo Sapiens Project (200) (Rouzbeh Rashidi, 2000-2020)

☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼ out of 10☼

Imagine finding yourself amidst a foggy forest of barren trees or a ghost town tucked away in the mist. Although you can barely see your hand in front of your face, somehow you do know the way and you're also familiar with how long and arduous it is. All of the sudden, you can discern a ball of white light in the distance, and as you walk towards it, it keeps getting smaller. Once you finally reach it, the luminous sphere is the size of a pill, floating in the air. You're tempted to swallow it and when you really do, a cloud of velvet darkness engulfs you in an instant, sending you straight to the heart of the void. Gradually, your weakened body disintegrates, with your mind and your spirit attuned to the dreamlife's abyss, at once disquieting and comforting. Then, you open your eyes and for the first time you see the nothingness of everything...

And that's the closest I can get in describing the mentally and emotionally demanding experience of watching Rouzbeh Rashidi's latest (and so far, lengthiest) addition to the already colossal Homo Sapiens Project. Composed of 40 short films created in the period 2000-2010 and now eternally integrated into a powerful and mysterious entity, the 8-hour feature provides the viewer with an immediate insight into the artist's formative years, plunging you into a vast and peculiar realm of melancholic grandeur. It often appears as an extremely fragmented, chronologically meandering and unstoppably mutating psychological drama whose protagonist is portrayed by several actors, every one of them bringing a heavy load of real-life issues to the table. Occasionally, the intrusions of other genres or rather, the subverted versions of the genres (such as sci-fi, horror, documentary and romance), break the flow to make it irregular, but that's where the film's attraction lies - in its ever-unexpected metamorphosis.

In equal measures profoundly personal, decidedly alienating and out of synch with the accelerated rhythms of our present, HSP (200) is the last, indecipherable word in the intimate diary lost in an Inland Empire of The Twilight Zone; a Ritual in Transfigured Time carefully performed on the outskirts of the Alphaville ruins; a storm-taming stone rolling back and forth across the meadow of silence and leaving the traces of loneliness behind... Through its strong interconnectedness with the history of (experimental) cinema, particularly the structuralist film, it washes over you with crushing waves of raw inscrutability which springs from the symbiotic relationship between its own and the filmmaker's micro- and macrocosm. And it shows you many facets of Cinema - embodied in people, objects, places and actions (even the most banal ones, such as sleeping or waiting for the bus) - a gentle spirit and relentless oppressor, rejuvenating potion and life-draining toxin, calming refreshment and boiling frustration... and during the last twenty minutes of perverse recontextualizations, a deranged and purifying catharsis.

Through the multitude of evocative, long-take close-ups, the camera of HSP (200) makes love to its 'subjects', reaching for their essence and their subconsciousness, and yet, they all remain distant and alone, trapped in a limbo that exists and persists 24 frames per second. Sometimes, it is due to the deliberately mismatched soundscapes of non-diegetic noise, doomy drones or classical music that they turn into disoriented ghosts. The grainy texture of the predominantly black and white imagery binds them to the past from which they will be constantly emerging, like unforgettable memories, to reshape the future, at least when it comes to any relevant discourse of the 21st century avant-garde film.

The film is available for rent / buy at very affordable price at Vimeo on Demand platform.

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