whew. i had the pleasure this evening of witnessing this film, “Garden of Earthly Delights,” by Polish director Lech Majewski. i can’t honestly say that i watched it. it may have watched me… or something within it is watching us. i don’t know. it captures better than the Dogma V films the idiosyncratic personal observation of a man holding a camera. (this film only departs from the stoicism of the Dogma V group slightly, and well at that). the story is about a woman, claudia, doing a PhD in art in London, on the Garden of Earthly Delights by Hieronymous Bosch:
which is kind of his shield of life, his answers to pragmatism, philosophy, religion. framed between past and future is the garden of freedom, the place where is enacted unfettered human desire. i shouldn’t expostulate too much since i have only briefly seen the painting, a long time ago, and didn’t really know what i was looking at. the film explains it in some quite exquisite detail. you don’t know how they meet, but claudia attracts a lover, chris, who cannot refrain from filming everything he does. it begins in his office, looking over engineering plans and studies of boat hulls (his pursuit), but this is flash forward as he begins to review the tapes of his tragic relationship with Claudia who has throat cancer… a fact which only slowly becomes clear in the film.
the tangible quality of the film is shocking. it forces you into a humanity with the actors, into a kind of economy with them, sharing intensely free thoughts about the paradise represented in the painting and a man’s infatuation with his muse. it’s eroticism is punctuated the way one’s own memory does this of a lover we had once long ago. and there is a greater whole that looms over the film–perhaps the vision of the director–or perhaps a sense of that which will remain in watery sequences after the body has parted, dissolved back into its constituents.
the film is greatly about the elements of life. the components. most of it filmed in aquatic alleys of venice and in buildings looking over water. there’s an ambulance ride in a mythical water vehicle that i may not ever forget, passing under the low bridges and barely missing the palimpsested brick that strikes down into the turgid waters of that town where Marco Polo always returned. i am reminded of that essence, the element of a human life, that can be so terribly captured in media, to not ever be forgotten, always loved, always here, ever imperfect.