All This Can Happen / I Play Dead
A Dance:Film 2013 double bill exploring the different ways movement can be incorporated into film
The debate on what constitutes dance, and who can do it, is a never-ending dialogue. So it comes as no surprise that dance on film poses the same questions – especially at a festival dedicated to both genres.
Compared to the more obvious screenings – the Fred and Ginger vehicle, Follow the Fleet, that opened this year’s Dance:Film fest, and 80s breakdance classic Breakin’ 2 that closed it – All This Can Happen has a much more understated brilliance.
Given that at no point during this 50 minute film is there any choreography or actual dancing, you’d be forgiven for wondering how it made it into the Dance:Film festival at all. But a quick look at the co-creator – the mother of British contemporary dance, Siobhan Davies – answers that one, as does the movement embedded into the editing process.
Inspired by Swiss writer Robert Walser’s 1917 story, The Walk (‘All this can happen’ is a line from his rather surreal prose), the film is a beautifully constructed collection of archive footage from the first pioneering days of the moving image. Played around with using split screens, stops and starts and repetition, the clips are sewn together to create a completely unrelated, but nonetheless perfect manifestation of Walser’s text.
The narrator talks about taking a walk, we see a man walking; he mentions eating a meal – again, another appropriate piece of vintage footage has been found. Seeing archive black and white images of people going about their daily business, at home, work, leisure, school, war, provides a thought-provoking reminder of times – and lives – gone by.
Finding a complementary short to sit alongside All This Can Happen would be nigh on impossible, so Dance:Film director Steph Wright didn’t even try. Instead, we had the world premiere of I Play Dead, by Swedish filmmaker Kaveh Akaber.
Set in an unspecified place and time, inside a lonely disused warehouse, the film evokes a sense of untold tragedy. A burning pram, a decapitated baby doll, and two children wearing gas masks share the space with a female dancer, whose fluid body responds to the uncomfortable atmosphere. Eerie, troubling and enjoyably confusing, I Play Dead is a fine example of how dance can be incorporated into film without feeling incongruous – and add a real sense of drama without a single word being spoken.