Wednesday, 8 December 2010

How Is It Possible To Create Oblivion?

StoryDoc brings us to Athens, and I try to remember when I was here last. I recall, from my parents' stories, that we were here as a family when I was a child. Maybe only two or three years old. But I can't be sure. Driving into the city on my way from the airport, I remember I was in transit here a few years ago, as well. I don't remember where from, or where to. But I had a layover of several hours in the airport, and I took a bus into the city. I bought a coffee, and a small notebook.

In "Stolen Antiquities: The Story of the Parthenon Marbles", someone says the Parthenon Marbles should be returned to Greece, because this is where they need to be seen. "In the light of Athens. In the air of Athens." I see that light around every corner. It floods into the streets from the perpendicular avenues to the East. It blinds me every morning when I come around the corner onto Panepistimiou street, heading towards Titania Hotel, or the Goethe Institute for our sessions. At times the sun slithers through the street, reflecting off the white marble walls, like fire.




On our second day, there is real fire on the streets. Demonstrations to mark the two year anniversary of the killing of Alexandros Grigoropoulos. And, more recently, anger at corrupt politicians and the IMF bailout. Glass is broken, telephone booths and mail boxes are overturned and set on fire. Police fire tear gas, we walk through the hanging clouds on our way to dinner. It's still in the air as we're eating. We can hear percussion grenades exploding loudly outside while we discuss our projects, in a surreal juxtaposition.

There is a screening of Into Eternity, a film of incredible beauty and boldness. A science-fiction poem about the life span of nuclear waste, and the eternal tomb being built under the bedrock of Onkalo, Finland to contain it. I am mesmerized by the movement, and the voice of Madsen, questioning "how is it possible to create oblivion? How can we remember to forget?" Because this what Onkalo asks us to do: bury the waste in a giant tomb and then forget it ever existed. Hope future generations never think to dig it up. Because this facility needs to last over 100,000 years. We've never built anything to last that long.

I'm trying to clarify the story of The Runner in my head. What is at the core?
Is it endurance?
Heroism?
Symbolism?

Niels Pagh Andersen talks about this core. He urges us to find it. He asks us to simplify, simplify, distill, reduce, simplify. What is the essence? The events, details, statistics may be complicated but the story is simple. It must be simple. How, otherwise, do you know what you're looking for? You may not know how your film will end (I don't...) but you must know the question that you're trying to answer.

How far, before you stop running?


Sanna Salmenkallio and her music of intensity and restraint. Witholding. Don't give too much away. It reminds me of Walter Murch, cutting out significant portions of a scene, withholding them until later. Or getting rid of them entirely. They may take on a new significance at a later point in the film, or if not, the whole story may be greater with less. Sanna says "film music is ritual music. It doesn't matter how it sounds, as long as it works. We don't want to think about the details...we want to see through the music."

"Bury me standing." This is the endurance of Maria Tanase. Her voice could melt lead, her eyes burn a hole through your heart and seduce you at the same time. "Maria Apassionata." We may all find our own way of resisting.

How far, before you stop running?


On our final night, after ten days of little sleep, we walk through the Gazi neighbourhood looking for a drink. These giant eyes peer down on us from a nearby wall.


A pregnant dog follows us from her owner's garage to the corner of Gazi's bar district.

And it's a long night. History here in Gazi is like Dalston, or Shoreditch before her, or New York's Soho, or the most fashionable neighbourhood of any city. The industrial sites turn to ruins, are then given over to artists, then to developers. But Athens today needs to be isolated from these cycles of ruin and fortunes. On my last day, Dominique Strauss-Kahn visits the city, and there are more protests planned against the latest conditions to be imposed on the country.

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