Monday, September 10, 2012

"1395 Days Without Red"

I saw this in the Irish Museum of Modern Art rather than in a cinema, so maybe it does not count as a proper film. It was also shorter than a normal feature length piece. Before talking about the film itself, I will talk about an odd event related to it I attended. IMMA's home is the Royal Hospital in Kilmainham, a nice venue but one a bit remote from anywhere. It is currently being refurbished, so IMMA has temporarily moved into the bit of the Earlsfort Terrace building that the Dublin Contemporary thing was in last year - former lecture theatres and offices for the engineering and medical faculties of University College Dublin.

As a Friend of IMMA I went along to the opening of their exhibitions in the Earlsfort Terrace venue and went along to a talk by some artists about work they were exhibiting. The talk was strange and fascinating, largely because they did not begin by directly stating what their artwork was, instead leaving it to the audience to infer this important information (or maybe everyone else had read the programme notes in advance). Anyway, it turned out that their work was indeed this oddly named film, 1395 Days Without Red.

The film has a split narrative. One strand shows some musicians who appear to be rehearsing a piece of music. The other shows a woman walking through a city. I kept thinking it would end with her joining the musicians and saying "sorry I'm late, the commute is a nightmare", but it did not, so the relationship between the two strands is unclear to me.

The woman walking through the city was the more interesting part of the two strands. At first she is walking along at a brisk pace. Then she comes to pedestrian crossing across a street where people are standing waiting to cross. There is no traffic, but the people are just standing there. Then one person jumps from their position and runs across the road. The others stand there and then another crosses in the same way. Finally the woman runs across the road and heads along her way. This kind of thing is repeated several times at subsequent junctions.

Now, if you had not read about the film in advance you might be wondering what is going on here. Rather than tell you I will describe a bit more. After a while we get a view up one of the streets the woman is crossing. There is no traffic on it but the road heads away off and in the distance we can see hills. But a little bit up the road large sheets of material are hung across it, obscuring the view along it.
Maybe at this point we have heard at least one noise that sounds rather like a gunshot.

As the woman's journey takes her on she seems increasingly nervous. She starts humming music to herself as though doing so will give her the strength to continue. The music is in fact the same as that which the musicians are rehearsing, Tchaikovsky's Pathétique. She then has to cross a very open area and she is clearly bricking it as she does so, but she makes it across without incident.

So what is going on? Well, the film was filmed in Sarajevo and set during the 1395 day long siege of the city by Serbian extremists. The woman is making a routine trip across town, but one that involves having to cross streets visible to enemy snipers. I do not know why it is called 1395 Days Without Red - maybe people avoided red clothes to make themselves less conspicuous to the snipers.

It was interesting to imagine how different this film would be if it had been made by Hollywood. As is, we only hear a handful of gunshots in the film, we never see anyone shot, and no bullet lands near the woman. No one shoots at her and it may well be that no one is aiming at her either. In a Hollywood film, though, I bet you would see people being shot at every junction and the woman would be literally dodging bullets every time she crosses the road. Who knows which approach makes for better films? As is, this film was an interesting window into the humdrum reality of living in a war zone, but it was rather repetitive and lacking in narrative structure.

Poster (see also)


An inuit panda production

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