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Differently, Molussia (4 stars)

Stories of the paradoxical and obscure, inspired by extracts from an unpublished Gunther Anders book

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Differently, Molussia

Differently, Molussia is a 16mm film made up of nine short segments that with each screening are shown in a different order. There are only three prints available: one subtitled in English, one subtitled in French and one in the original German: the film adapts extracts from a 1930s novel by Gunther Anders that went unpublished until his death in 1992. In a film that has plenty of paradoxes of its own, there is none more telling and apt than that the director, Nicolas Rey, who does not speak German, has been fascinated by this book that hasn’t been translated into a language he speaks.

Utilising numerous landscape images that might bring to mind the work of the Straubs, Claude Lanzmann and Patrick Keiller, Rey uses a series of extracts from Anders’ book that capture the paradoxical and the obscure. In one tale a sailor dies and a captain keeps sending letters that the man had written in advance of his demise to the mum, who then also passes away. There is the haunting irony of both the son and the mother having passed away, but the letters continuing.

In another sequence one hears of someone’s persuasiveness in argument, but his realisation that often people believe without evidence, and all the evidence in the world cannot make someone believe. Such ironies are couched in an image that suggests both the permanence of the landscape and the decomposition and uncertainty of the image. At one moment the camera spins on its axis and the landscape ends up upside down. At another moment the landscape becomes the pure grain of the image, resembling the end of Bergman’s The Passion of Anna.

Yet at the same time the landscape is meaningful. If Bergson claimed astutely that a landscape can’t be funny, we can certainly say in the films of Straub, Lanzmann, Keiller and Rey here, that it can reveal feeling.

Differently, Molussia screened at the Edinburgh International Film Festival.

Differently, Molussia (anders, Molussien)

  • 4 stars
  • 2012
  • France
  • 81 min
  • Directed by: Nicolas Rey
  • Cast: Peter Hoffmann

Drawing on a text by German philosopher Günther Anders, these nine short, individually titled films make an imaginary documentary about Molussia, a fictional totalitarian country invented to represent the dystopia of fascism. Paradoxical but full of feeling the segments are shown in a different order each screening.

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