Fertile Ground in DÜRER

 In Lens on Screendance

I have seen my share of dance films done in empty and abandoned swimming pools. As sites they are always so intriguing – the old tiles, their colors faded from years of chlorinated water, the light, and the various levels and spaces within them. They emanate an inherent nostalgia and create beautiful locations for dance and film. Most of the pool films I’ve seen feature smart choreography – sequenced, and symmetrical, with wardrobe inspired mainly by the shapes and colors of the site. However in DÜRER, the location is not just the destination; it’s fertile ground for so much more.

Always introduced individually or in pairs, we see a total of seven dancers inhabiting the spaces within the site. They are presented to us candidly, moving freely with abandon and sans any apparent choreographic constructs, seemingly dancing on their own, with some apparently unaware altogether of the presence of the camera. The first two are young men – seated together on a pastel colored tile floor, one massages the other’s foot. Then a woman with one arm in a sling dances largely with her free arm against a wall of tiles. Another woman jumps in and out of a smaller pool. Two others, seemingly mother and daughter, dance together while an older man dances alone. All of them move in direct response to the space, but more to the point they are all releasing their collective inner tumult in reaction to the constraints and tensions of this past year. “With the body and mind constrained during the pandemic,” says the director and cinematographer András Ladocsi, “we wanted to liberate ourselves through movement, which is vital to life.”

What is most striking to me is how the camera gets inside of the dance, and as a result inside of the psyche of each dancer, allowing the viewer to feel and respond viscerally. Limbs and torsos are often seen headless and moving, allowing the viewer a fly on the wall experience. Dance is so often viewed frontally when captured on film, as if the proscenium reigns as the ultimate point of view. But dance, like sculpture, is meant to be experienced on many sides.

Although she died unexpectedly beforehand, when Wim Wenders agreed to collaborate with the legendary choreographer Pina Bausch on creating a film together, he hesitated until he could figure out how to get inside of the dance. His solution was 3D. But as DÜRER demonstrates, that device is not always necessary.

In DÜRER, there is a lack of affect and an honesty that I love – in how we discover the dancers, in the way they move and why, and in the film as a whole. The dance, the music, the cinematography, the color, and the light… all of it is lush and quietly beautiful. What further lends to its power is the fact that the derelict swimming pool it uses as a location, was built on the site of a 100-year-old monastery during Hungary’s soviet regime.  That is fertile ground for sure.

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