– Review by Fausta Noreikaitė
One hundred steps by Bárbara Wagner and Benjamin de Burca exhibit synchronized dance of music and cinematography. The film does not have a single protagonist, it a story of many: nations, cultures, identities. A story that does not have a single narrative, nor a single interpretation.
The short deals with the topic of monumental space in regard to human identity: What do we do with the spaces that have no other but a commemorative function? The authors challenge the idea of monumental space by placing lively and expressive characters on the scene in relation to the empty, vast and aural spaces. Wagner and de Burca explores and expands these monumental locations and invites to think about them in connection with the feeling of displacement and the feeling of belonging, following the order and challenging it, being muted and being heard. That’s where the music comes in.
Music in this movie is a crucial means of expression. It is not an accompaniment of the movie, nor a soundtrack. Music is the story-teller here. The pause, the silence, the background sonance are as important as the harmonies performed by musicians. No sound, no noise cannot escape the camera’s attention. It is music that leads the characters, and music that relates them to one another. By rejecting the convention of music as an accompaniment and situating it (as well as the performers) in the centre, it reverses the power relations of those who are usually in periphery (as that background music itself, accompanying main protagonists). Here, it repositions and alters the normalized Us versus Them, ‘European’ and ‘the Other’ structure. It invites us to think about these relations differently, to question them, to reshape them and to listen.
Each performer in the movie plays a different instrument, sing or perform in the traditional to their culture manner. Sometimes it is dance, sometimes it is acapella singing, sometimes it is almost a ritual-like performance: hypnotic, calming and inviting to forget the known or unlearn. Music is almost a state of mind here: fragmented from memories, bounded by past and present. The characters in the movie also relate to each other and the viewer through different harmonies and rhythms. The music is both the main storyteller and instrument of communication.
The transitions of the shots are as poetic and harmonic as the music itself. Long and uninterrupted takes, always in motion, echoing the cinematography of Béla Tarr, allows the spectator to experience and see the empty and vast spaces as a state of mind. Often reappearing leitmotif of stairs, which in German Expressionism would often symbolise a mental state, the claustrophobic, post-traumatic experience or the state between dream and awakening, conscious and the subconscious. In One Hundred Steps, trauma is the past; dream-like condition mirroring different histories, which is experienced by the characters but also by those who watch: some are confronted with it, some can relate to it. The viewer visits mansions of the privileged (together with the performers), where the owner of the house ‘shows his power’ through his possessions; spaces of exhibitions that display one’s fortune and wealth; we shall start wondering: at what costs?
When watching the movie, one might find some echo of cinema verité: between the documentary, improvisation and fiction, highlighting the subjects who are normally hidden behind the crude reality. Memory, history, trauma, collective consciousness in relation to space; those are the components one should keep in mind when watching it. But most importantly, to just watch and allow the poetic symbiosis of cinematography and music guide you through spaces as the states of mind; self-reflecting, self-interpreting, self-conscious.