Wednesday, March 31, 2010
I've been trying to watch some of the shorts and animations that were nominated for Oscars earlier this month, and one that caught my eye was The Door, which was written and directed by Juanita Wilson. The short, which is just shy of seventeen minutes, is based on the "MONOLOGUE ABOUT A WHOLE LIFE WRITTEN DOWN ON DOORS, the testimony of Nikolai Fomich Kalugin", by Svetlana Alexievich, which follows the attested story of a man in post-Chernobyl Pripyat and Kiev.
As a college photography student who is interested in abandoned spaces, I have on more than one occasion been shown work by photographers who have gone into Pripyat (Robert Polidori being one). Though the photographs are always hauntingly beautiful and extremely sad, they still lack the full story, only representing the general sense of loss and sadness that is present in many photographs of abandoned (for whatever reason) spaces. They, in my opinion, therefor do not effectively convey the absolute devastation the Chernobyl disaster left behind.
Pripyat is an intriguing place, I have always been entranced by the present-day photographs of the famous ferris-wheel and the whole post-apocalyptic quiet it exudes. The problem is that the photographs are admittedly romanticized, and looking at them often makes me more interested in exploring than considering the disaster that occurred there (and I won't enter certain abandoned spaces such as mental hospitals out of respect of the horrors people had to endure there, so distracting me from who inhabited the space is not easy). The Door manages to strip the space of this romanticism while maintaining a level of beauty. It makes the personal connection that the photographs lack.
Every frame of The Door could be a photograph. The filming (director of photography: Tim Fleming) is perfect, as is the color palette. The short opens with an unexplained action, a man stealing a door; and evolves into a story of loss and tradition. Just as nothing about the door is without deeper meaning, the short reveals the way in which nothing after Chernobyl was innocuous.
A faculty member at my school and well-known artist once told me that "nostalgia is just memory without pain". While I can not fully agree with this statement (particularly in the context in which it was given), watching this film gave me an insight into what she was trying to say. The photographs are beautiful and nostalgic. They show the literal surface of Pripyat. The Door gives a truer (as it is not only based off a testimonial but structured in the same way as a memory) understanding of Pripyat and the memories that are trapped within it. As Toni Morrison would put it, the "rememories".
The Door may be a short, but in the seventeen minutes they have accomplished everything about a place which other mediums and artists have been trying to capture for years.
The entire film as well as more information are available here.
*be warned that parts of it are not easy to watch, but it is definitely worth it.
images: screenshots from The Door.