United Kingdom

Anselm Kiefer’s last days at Barjac

Director Sophie Fiennes spent two years filming the artist

Peering into the void: Fiennes inside Kiefer's complex in 2008

Sophie Fiennes’ documentary on Anselm Kiefer, “Over Your Cities Grass Will Grow”, is released in UK cinemas this month after a showcase at the Cannes Film Festival in May.

The director spent more than two years filming the artist at work in his complex at Barjac near Avignon in the south of France. Kiefer had invited Fiennes to document his final days at the immense studio-cum-installation, as he prepared to finally abandon the site before moving back to Paris. The title is borrowed from the Biblical story of Lilith, an interest of Kiefer’s, and refers to the fact that the site is now semi-derelict.

With a soundtrack of disorientating, atonal music, much of it by the composer György Ligeti, the initial sequence consists of long, slow shots that linger over the immense, cavernous spaces and superficially ramshackle constructions that form much of the estate. There is no commentary, no biographical introduction and no captioning.

After a while we move to an internal space where Kiefer and his assistants are making art.This is followed by a sequence where a deferential journalist interviews Kiefer in his study, showing almost painful reverence for his subject, and eliciting half-expounded theories and gnomic utterances such as “all light, north or south, is equally interesting”, and “sometimes I wonder what it would be like if the world was flat. How would I feel? I think not a lot would change.”

Then there are more elegiac, slow shots of Kiefer’s work, followed by more sequences of construction, this time largely outdoors. This is film-making that does little to entice any stray viewers unfamiliar with the artist or, more generally, uncomfortable without the familiarity of conventional documentary storytelling.

Also being screened this month, at the “Abandon Normal Devices” arts festival in Manchester (1-7 October), are Pipilotti Rist’s feature “Pepperminta” (3 and 6 October), and a new film from Gillian Wearing, “Self Made” (2 October). Full details at www.andfestival.org.uk. “Self Made” is also being screened (14 and 15 October) at the London Film Festival (13-28 October). Also showing at the LFF are Julian Schnabel’s new film “Miral” (18, 19 and 20 October), and “Smash His Camera”, a portrait by Leon Gast of the New York/New Jersey celebrity photographer Ron Galella. Full details at www.bfi.org/lff.

“Over Your Cities Grass Will Grow” was released in the UK on 15 October.

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21 Oct 10
21:54 CET


While entertaining, the point of view of the article is perhaps as irreverent as the film interviewer of Anselm Keifer was reverent. At any rate, as Oscar Wilde noted, it is better to be talked about badly (or at the very least irreverently) than not to be talked about at all.

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