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In Praise of Nothing

[…] A series of beautiful images, a poetic voice-over alternating with poetic texts, a slow rhythm that makes regular use of the black screen. A mixture of intelligence, beauty, meditation – which could recall Chris Marker’s essayism.

[…] We cannot help but appreciate Mitić’s efforts to remain faithful to rhyme, but the poetic verses leave more and more space for a mass of doubtful opinions about everything and nothing.

[…] Is this a cynically self-destructive discourse that simply wants to make a fan of filmic intellectualism? Is it a sort of Beckettian pamphlet, which we are not meant to take seriously? Or, perhaps is it a genuinely poetic project, simply gone wrong?

Within the first minutes of In Praise of Nothing we are captived in pure astonishment. A series of beautiful images, a poetic voice-over alternating with poetic texts, a slow rhythm that makes regular use of the black screen. A mixture of intelligence, beauty, meditation – which could recall Chris Marker’s essayism. But after this initial “wow-effect”, we understand and recognize a format that remains the same, but without delivering a proper construction, and void of surprises. The images portray the most unusual places on the planet, but they are not given enough room to spread their evocative force, insofar as they are just “used” to illustrate some pieces of the (written or spoken) text. So, they become like an inventory of National Geographic curiosities, or a sort of YouTube collection of amazing facts and places.

Actually, the text-layer is responsible for this deceiving evolution of the film. It is a monologue (given by the Nothing itself), whose initial poetic openings are bound, more and more, to a discourse that puts forth its intentions; a discourse that wants an increasingly specific reception from the audience. We find ourselves “trapped” within a net of wise (too wise to be poetic…) judgements on politics, the world, and life; a sort of cheap philosophy that tries to give a sense of order to gigantic themes like life and death, man and woman, being and nothing. We cannot help but appreciate Mitić’s efforts to remain faithful to rhyme, but the poetic verses leave more and more space for a mass of doubtful opinions about everything and nothing.

Is this a cynically self-destructive discourse that simply wants to make a fan of filmic intellectualism? Is it a sort of Beckettian pamphlet, which we are not meant to take seriously? Or, perhaps is it a genuinely poetic project, simply gone wrong? In the attempt to say everything one always says too much, and Boris Mitić seems to assume the role of embodying vanity and delirium in his monologue. The end credits come and we discover that the visual layer is the result of a gathering of filmic images from around the world. This process of production is certainly intriguing, but it confirms how sad the destiny of those images is, which find themselves reduced to the delirious discourse of Mitić’s Nothing.

Yet, In Praise for Nothing is still a film that gives us the occasion to grasp some true moments of poetry. One has to just give up on the natural effort to embrace the film in its entirety, and discover the singular flashes of creativity – to which the dramatic voice of Iggy Pop contributes in a large measure.

Text: Giuseppe Di Salvatore

First published: December 23, 2016

In Praise of Nothing | Film (provisory version) | Boris Mitić | SRB-FR-KRO 2016 | 90’ | Biennale de l’Image en Mouvement Genève

(the final version of the film will be screened at Locarno Festival 2017)

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