Where Is Where?

Film
Recommended
4 out of 5 stars
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Time Out says

4 out of 5 stars

Far more deserving of the hoopla Mike Figgis received for his single-take, multicamera drama Timecode (2000), Finnish visual artist Eija-Liisa Ahtila’s experimental narrative truly pushes forward the possibilities of split-screen cinema. Inspired by a real-life incident during the ’50s in which two Algerian boys stabbed their young French playmate, the film presents a cryptically lyrical investigation of bridges—between history and modernity, Western and Arab cultures, home and identity. Elsewhere, a 40-ish female poet (Outinen) is greeted by Death, whose fateful job causes one character to ponder in voiceover: “When you die, where are you? And where is where?”

Everything connects through structure and form: Via screen quadrants, the images speak to each other in two dimensions (not unlike The Brady Bunch credits), inventively in three (glowing words float toward the camera in the top frames, then appear backwards as they move away in the reverse-shot down below), and sometimes four (a knife spins one way, background elements conjunctively spin the other). Time is bent, space is expanded, characters in different eras react to the same noises and we’re left wondering how much more brilliantly this could unfold in Ahtila’s alternate version: a six-channel installation.

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