Lost in Space: Film Comment Selects 2013

02/19/2013 1:05 PM |

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Other selections in this year’s lineup address states of mind whose environmental parallels are just as vivid but less tangible. For the first 55 minutes of Philippe Grandrieux’s White Epilepsy, two figures, one male and one female, drift through a pitch-black void as their bodies recede farther and farther into shadow. The soundtrack is a hushed howl somewhere between the movement of wind through trees, heavy male breathing, and the roar of a turbine. There’s nothing in sight to restrict the movement of those bodies, but also nothing to suggest that their world extends an inch beyond the frame: as in the paintings of Francis Bacon, one of this film’s closest visual and tonal reference-points, empty space is made to suggest not freedom but lostness, paralysis, constraint. And here, again as in Bacon, our inability to orient ourselves within the frame forces us to consider bodily life in isolation, to directly confront its dimensions, its limitations, and above all its susceptibility to death. We barely notice how much tension ends up accumulating between these charged bodies and their lifeless surroundings, until that delicate balance is broken by a decisive and shocking late-film cut.