And then they will burn you too,
as edification for man,
as sweet scent for God.
Häxan is a fascinating and visually gorgeous Swedish-Danish film from 1922, directed by Benjamin Christensen. It is part history lesson, part dramatization and horror story lush with imaginative imagery and elaborate production. Presented in a documentary style which alternates slideshow images of medieval woodcut illustrations with historical reenactments, this piquant silent film explores views of witchcraft and Satanism during the Middle Ages, comparing them with contemporary perceptions of hysteria and mental illness among women. Häxan draws from Christensen’s study of the 15th-century German manual for inquisitors, the Malleus Maleficarum, and from other treatises on witches and witch-hunting from the era. Christensen amusingly plays the role of the tongue-waggling Devil himself.
Evolution (2015) is an enigmatic, beautiful, subtly disturbing film from director Lucile Hadžihalilović, her first feature-length title since Innocence in 2004. It belongs in both the horror and science fiction categories, but it isn’t confined within those genres and I wouldn’t classify it under either of those. Visually striking without being ostentatious, it has a lot of impressive atmosphere. It is not at all lavish, but everything about its visual design is so memorable, from the stark, simple, whitewashed, cube-like buildings, to the slightly decayed, peeling green walls of the hospital. It is very minimalist, managing to feel austere and dreamy at the same time – everything about it is elegant, purposeful, and careful. It has a certain purity. I feel like there is nothing superfluous in it, not a single scene, gesture, or facial expression wasted.
This enigmatic and hauntingly lyrical short film directed by Adam Csoka Keller, entitled Echtes Leder (“Genuine Leather”), explores themes of death, deterioration, and creation, juxtaposing images of human flesh with decaying objects in the midst of deserted and dilapidated settings. It features a startlingly dynamic score by V. R. Alevizos.
The Color of Pomegranates is an exquisite cinematic experience, quietly, abstractly dazzling and chimerical. This beautiful avant-garde 1968 Armenian film by director Sergei Parajanov is a non-narrative, impressionistic, and highly stylized biography of 18th-century poet Sayat-Nova. Composed of a series of moving tableaux or vignettes and prominently featuring Parajanov’s muse, the enigmatic beauty Sofiko Chiaureli, the movie is divided into eight chapters: Childhood, Youth, The Prince’s Court, The Monastery, The Dream, Old Age, The Angel of Death, and Death. It has little dialogue, though there are sound and music. Existing almost as pure visual poetry, it extravagantly abounds with surreal, symbolic imagery and is such a distinct piece of visionary cinema.
The Reigning of the Moth is a delightful short film by artist Katie Eleanor. Jumping back and forth between color and black-and-white, this oneiric offering is full of surreal imagery and the charming disjointedness of a silent film. A young girl encounters a group of black-garbed, witch-like beings in the forest, who attempt to transform her. I love the design of the intertitles. Occult, nonlinear, eerie, and whimsical, this film is a love song to past cinema and is hauntingly piquant in its own right.
Velvit is a concept store and online gallery which curates collections of fashion, art, and music by independent artists and designers. Thus far they have included fashion/jewelry labels Ovate, Noctex, Raw Taste, and Maude Nibelungen, artist Jas Helena, and musician Lykanthea.
Die Antwoord’s music video for “Ugly Boy” is quite visually striking. I love Yolandi’s uncanny dark-angel look as she sits upon her throne, and also the contrast between the jet-black and pure white clothing, the all-black eyes, and blood streaming down those preternatural faces.
Energy Addicts is a project by Israeli graduate student Naomi Kizhner. Kizhner, a designer and “trend theorist,” seeks to “provoke the thought about how far we will go in order to ‘feed’ our addiction in the world of declining resources.” The project comprises three devices, the Blinker, the E-Pulse Conductor, and the Blood Bridge – jewelry pieces which harness the body’s energy to generate electrical power. Some of them are embedded into the veins, and thus invasive.
Kizhner plays with the idea of human bodies as “biological wealth.” Using “invasive gold and biopolymer devices,” electromagnets, micro energy cells, and micro turbines, she turns the wearer into a natural resource, where “simple movements performed by the subconscious are fully utilized” – provoking interesting questions about ethics and the quantification of the individual. The Blinker extracts energy from blinks of the eyelids, the Blood Bridge uses a hypodermic needle inserted into the arm and circulates blood through the wheel, turning it, and the E-Pulse Conductor is inserted in veins near the spine and picks up electrical impulses.
This ingenious project is simultaneously technological wizardry, fashion statement, and social commentary. She has also made a short film to accompany it, which depicts individuals using their bodies to light up their world in a way that makes it meaningful for them, drawing them further into this addiction, but also seeming to drain them. It is as if they only feel alive when they can have this visionary reality before them, which requires their energy to manifest; so what makes them feel alive is what ironically enervates and devitalizes them, and is also what closes them off to any other world, perpetuating the cycle.