It's not a hugely engaging film, but it's an important, beautifully assembled document.
German painter and sculptor Anselm Kiefer has spent the last two decades building elaborate, oversized art at his studio, La Ribaute, in southern France. Previously a silk factory, the derelict buildings are now both a massive studio space and an elaborate network of underground tunnels and chambers. And above the surface there are astonishing tower blocks built from pre-fab concrete slabs. Some of the spaces feel like churches or secret hideouts, others like archaeological digs. Scattered throughout are Kiefer's distinctive sculptures and paintings. And watching him create them is almost like performance art.
Kiefer's work is a genuinely fascinating expression of civilisation, using construction materials in extreme ways that make the environment look like a collage of historical ruins, abject poverty, natural destruction and even futuristic architecture. Built on a huge scale, they are absolutely enthralling, evoking thoughts and feelings in unexpected ways. Combined with the setting, the film feels almost like an exploration of the remnant of some future human civilisation.
Beautifully shot in Cinemascope, Fiennes' camera glides simply through these spaces, capturing the textures and depth, the rough materials and the ways everything interacts with the natural landscape, both above and below ground.
After about 15 minutes of observation, we finally get a glimpse of the artist and his assistants at work with metal, glass, ash and a variety of debris he uses to create his large-scale artwork. He also has a casual and very open chat in a library with Dermutz about the inspiration and meaning of his work.
The sound is minimalistic as well, with atonal musical chords and, besides the interview, occasional instructions from Kiefer to his assistants. What makes it watchable is the constant variety of imagery and the continually moving camerawork, which plays with light, colour, reflections and depth of field to make the site itself seem like it's in motion. Essentially this is the kind of film that plays on a loop in an art gallery. And without saying anything overtly, it says rather a lot about the creative process.
Run time: 105 mins
In Theaters: Thursday 27th October 2011
Box Office USA: $46.8k
Distributed by: Lorber Films
Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 79%
Fresh: 27 Rotten: 7
IMDB: 6.9 / 10
Director: Sophie Fiennes
Producer: Emilie Blezat, Sophie Fiennes, Kees Kasander
Also starring: Kees Kasander