« Backlash | Main | Black Gravel »

August 28, 2020

When Forever Dies

when forever dies.jpg

Peet Gelderblom - 2020
Tangerine Tree

First, a note that I have had some brief online correspondence with Peet Gelderblom over the course of the past fifteen years.

I am not sure if I can accurately describe Dutch filmmaker Gelderblom's film. What he has done is taken excerpts from various films and edited them into a loose narrative. The excerpts are films that have become public domain, mostly silent films, but also television commercials, children's shows, and documentaries. The idea of cobbling together various pieces from unrelated films is not new, but has mostly been the province of "experimental" filmmakers such as Bruce Conner with A Movie or a significant part of Ken Jacobs' Star Spangled to Death. More recently, there was the feature length film by Gustav Deutsch, Film is a Girl & a Gun. The difference is that while these earlier films were primarily expressing abstract ideas using the connections of the images, Gelderblom has worked with an overall framework of telling a story.

How this works is that there is an onscreen explanation that his two characters, Mr. and Mrs. Forever, have no fixed appearance. At one moment, they may be in the form of Dennis Hopper and Linda Lawson in Night Tide, or the animated Bettie Boop and her soldier boy. Some of the montages are of similar moments in a variety of films. Sometimes previously unrelated images are cut together as when a small army of Medieval knights are in pursuit of Fifties pin-up queen Bettie Page. Gelderblom also plays with split screen imagery, either will multiplying the same image, or having different footage sharing the sharing different parts of the frame.

For cinephiles, some of the footage is familiar, especially from the various shorts films of Georges Melies. There is also a recognizable bit from Bunuel. The film historian side of me wishes that a home video version was also annotated, identifying the various excerpts. One very funny bit from an unfamiliar silent film features a hapless would-be Romeo, an equestrian with a horse that dumps him straight into a well, twice! Gelderblom also uses clips from contemporary film artist Martha Colburn, using demonic imagery and skeletons painted onto film. The soundtrack is a combination of original and classical music. One striking example for me was the combination of Smetana's "The Moldau" with silent era footage of fishermen casting their nets.

Peet Gelderblom also has a website explaining how the film is a very personal work. If I have not written much about the narrative aspects, it is because for myself it is of less concern than the pleasure of the images. This reaction may be rooted in my own cinematic education which included both formal studies of experimental films in the early 1970s as well as peripherally working in film preservation as a volunteer at the Museum of Modern Art. One can certainly enjoy the imagery in When Forever Dies within its new context. One can also take those various clips out of any formalized presentation to be enjoyed for their own power and given meaning.

When Forever Dies premieres at the Eye Filmmuseum in Amsterdam, August 31, to be followed by festival screenings.

Posted by Peter Nellhaus at August 28, 2020 06:22 AM