“I just want to travel the world for a year filming what I come across.”
This is what Michael Glawogger did, a world famous Austrian documentary maker, presenting us with a river in flood of images overflowing its banks, unstoppable, uncontrollable and with an extraordinary force.
More than four months of filming in a dozen countries UNTITLED, powerful, emotional and very human is Glawogger’s last work. There will never be another such example of his incredible ability to immerse us in the poetic reality of the world.
In April 2014, at only 54 years, Glawogger died of malaria, in the middle of his trip without end. His earthly road finished in Liberia, in Africa, while was filming his journey without end “to make the most beautiful film ever, more than anyone could image and that would never end.”
UNTITLED, finished by Michael Glawogger‘s film editor, Monika Willi, is a “patchwork” of places, faces, sounds, voices (untranslated), gathered from his diaries and filming.
A journey without end, a film without a story, yet able to unfold through a series of images in which each landscape, each person and every space is inter-related in a meticulous, sensitive and seemingly casual narration.
UNTITLED is not a film about nothing, it is a film about ‘everything’, on the infinite combinations of our earthly journey to the discovery of the Other, the search for the essence of Freedom, beyond language and borders. UNTITLED is in reality not a film without a story, but a script that reveals itself through men, women, animals and landscapes, all appearing on the human stage that is the world.
A global babel that amazes us, where Glawogger‘s Leitmotiv clearly emerge – the environment, nature, animals and poverty.
3 December 2013 – Austria, Hungary, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia Serbia Montenegro, Albania, Italy, Morocco, Mauritania, Senegal, Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia.
From the Balkans to Africa, from lifeless buildings riddled with bullet holes from the war to dusty and sandy deserts, from open rubbish dumps to the urban ghettos of the Third World, from carrions on the verge of dirty roads to hungry stray dogs, from gold hunters to children rummaging through the last load of dumped rubbish searching for a treasure.
Fighters on the beach of Dakar, skeleton of bushes after a fire in some anonymous forest, caravans of goods exposed to the desert winds struggling to survive against the shifting dunes. A woman breastfeeding her child, two men counting their wares. Surrounding all, the silence of the desert, profound, intense, watchful over the passing camel caravans. The silence of the snow-covered peaks of the Balkan Mountains, majestic, surreal, limpid in the blue sky. The buzzing of an elctric saw is life.
The animal world and its relationship with humans is central to UNTITLED.
A goat giving birth in a garbage dump is one of the starkest and most natural things. The first clumsy steps of the kid remind of the poignant effort of entering the world. However, the animal world is also merciless. Goats scuffling through the rubbish, donkeys vying for space in a sandy stall in Senegal, maggots feasting on the carcass of a donkey.
African hands filtering through sand, hunting for magic golden specks; the rockbreaking hands of small children, seated and hunched over on the ground all day with a hammer between their legs splitting rocks.
Snippets of the Balkans.
“Skeletons of uncovered bricks, ruins and old houses still intact but riddled with bullet holes, as if they were scarred like a battered body. In twenty years nobody has been worried about getting rid of those scars, nobody spoke any longer about the war that was still apparent everywhere. The houses of those who had been killed remained empty and the empty ones were simply new.” (Michael Glawogger)
Faith and prayer. The heavy traffic of an African city interrupted by bodies genuflecting towards Mecca, the booming chant of the muezzin in the background with the braying of a donkey, in a Serbian church the traditional dishes of an Orthodox Easter waiting to be blessed, the sermons of an African preacher interrupted by the exuberance of brightly-clad women singing.
An enormous market in a city slum, dark, immersed in a cacophony of souds.
“[…] there were many different intensities of light before everything becomes black, the more you dwelled in these nights without electricity, the lighter they seemed. They appeared blue due to the electric batteries and the mobile phones and were noisy because of the generators to be heard from all over the city…who knows what it would look like minutes after the lights were all turned off.”
In Liberia, where he found his death, Glawogger dreamed of becoming ‘invisible’, to disappear in Harper, once called Cape Palmes, one of the places settled by the American slave-traders.
Harper, on the most southern point of West Africa, on the Atlantic Ocean, is a city designed with an almost unheard of grandeur, spacious and sleepy, where you returned in order to return home after the end of slavery, and after a bloody civil war (200,000 deaths) fought between the government soldiers of Charles Taylor and the rebel militia. Ten years of violent atrocities, ten years of the abuse of thousands of child soldiers recruited by this ruthless dictator.
“A person should be able to hide. Where, if not here? But he was whiter than white and a foreigner, he could have roamed in the bush a bit without being so conspicuous, however, sooner or later he would hae stumbled across a village and a policeman would have passed by and seen that his passport was no longer valid and he would have had to return to the world he had come from. No so out of the way place exists where you do not need any papers. The world is so big, there must be a place where you can hide and not be found. Harper could be that place, at the farthest extreme of Liberia […]. There is no such place where nothingness exists, but nothingness was now very near.”