Sunday, 30 March 2014


The films of Godfrey Reggio are intimate collaborations with a select few principal artists: Philip Glass, the composer, being one, his cinematographers being some more, and 18th Century philosopher George Berkeley being another. Berkeley is credited with advancing the notion that all matter cannot exist without being perceived. This is a theory of much value in the creation of art, wherein the act of perceiving the artistic produce is also an aspect in its own creation. One's interpretation is of particular value; for Reggio, one's interpretation is of limitless value, since his cinematic abstractions are so reliant on the evocation of ambiguity in their content. His reductive fiction, Visitors, is wholly indebted to those who perceive it, for it is their interpretation that determines its significance - you could project onto it the thought that it is a profound masterpiece of the cinema, whereas I projected onto it that it was lazy and boring, and comically cliched. It recalled, for me, Tsai Ming Liang's recent quasi-documentary Journey to the West, only Reggio's aims are far less substantial (and far more pompous) than Tsai's, his technique far more obvious. What he presents in silent, slow-motion, monochromatic imagery of faces, hands, derelict buildings and theme parks is supposedly minimalist in its composition, yet also (and I am tempted to conclude that Reggio is unaware of this) thoroughly maximalist in its intended effect. This maximalism is compounded by Philip Glass' portentous score, transforming many of the film's images into bathetic comedy, and only rarely forming in unity with the visuals to communicate a solid, significant statement. When Reggio steps irresistibly away from his deliberate obliqueness to compose some theoretical articles of discernible substance, he actually achieves a degree of success - early flashes of mistrust in humanity, and visual representations of our futile, though destructive, desire to conquer nature and natural law are beautifully done, as are some hypnotic shots of swampland at the other end of the film. But these are exceptions which unintentionally prove what is otherwise a rule of Visitors - it's only as accessible as you make it, so open to individual analysis is it. Maybe it's a personal thing, then, but I prefer my movies to know a little more about what sort of movie they want to be.