Blesok no. 28, September-October, 2002
The Postmodernism in the Macedonian Film – part II
The fragmentarity follows the principle of constructing the parts from the deconstructed (one or more) wholes, through the means of montage, collage, inoculation of quotes from the various different textual origins etc. All of the constitutional parts of the whole are equal by their significance, and they stood on equal bases within the whole. That provides them such independence, so they can also function outside the whole, as well. The film Light Gray is an omnibus film, namely – a triptych made by three different authors, and every story is an independent whole within the great whole. The documentary and genre patterns in Maklabas are a freely-made collage, in spite of the illusion that they follow some firm narrative line. In Goodbye to the 20th Century – the three thematic parts are
linked among themselves with a different motivation each, and while the part with the Santa Claus comes (in the fable and chronological sense) before the part with Kuzman, it comes (in the edited story) afterwards, following some constructed, cyclic time logic. Then, the black & white segment (the third part) in the film that speaks of the first filmed incest at the Balkans comes as a completely independent part of the collage, both in style and in the theme, and even in the way it’s filmed. The reason for the reaching after this way of techniques is the thesis that the art-deed can’t directly present the understanding of the world, or to fully “catch the feeling” on that issues. Instead of that, the art-deed can (inter)mediate – through the collage, and through the editing – in the expressing and presenting those upon the actual or historical examples. The elements of the film language doesn’t have sense and meaning by & within themselves, but the y gain that through their editing and collage structures (both in text and image).
Postmodern films point upon their status of artifact systematically and with a self-conscience. The traditional and the modern films try to minimize the fiction and to reassure the audience that he experiences the reality itself, and to build an illusion of the world that will capture the recipient in that it. The metatextual films maximize the fiction and remind the recipient that he’s experiencing only something created, something made (and “false” in the very reality of the real world). Stole Popov uses that meta-textuality in his film opus: Gypsy Magic begins with the Gypsies watching an Indian film; the way they experience that film is a mini-essay of the “film vs. reality” relations, and the forms of the art reception. In Tattoo, when a few of the prisoners simulate a film crew, on of the other prisoners (Kiril Pop Hristov) addresses the audience directly, among who he places his father also, and with that, he takes the recipients out of the film illusion.
The intertextuality is a concept by which the art is consisted by art itself, but not in the old sense that it contains traces and influences from the previously made art, but in much more radical way: every film sequence or segment is the re-creation of the previous actual film/films. By this, there is no such thing as originality or origin deed: all art is intertextual. The postmodernism points that there is nothing else to do (to tell), but to explore and use the already existing (already told) stories. The multi-genre interlacing of the Macedonian postmodern films is in the function of maintaining the links with the whole (and not only the film) art universe. The Macedonian postmodern film recalls the general genre models, but also the individual models – films, directors, poetics, even partial sequences or quotes. In that sense, the postmodern film doesn’t try to distinct itself from the large world cinematography whole, or to impose its own way of narration as a superior image of the eternal and the impossible. The recalling the previous and contemporary art forms and deeds is the acknowledgement of its limited posibilities of the every individual art-deed. These films often, and very intentionally, imprint the impression of incompleteness, and leave the “edges” between the different aesthetic patterns unpolished, with which they point both on the material and the spiritual aspect of the art-deed’s genesis. The intertextual link is realized through the technique of quoting.
The quote is a transferring and rearranging of elements, sub-structures of some existing art-/non-art-deed into the new art-deed that is being created. According Mishko Shuvakovic (1995:24), at the avant-garde, the quote is used in a formal, destructive and anti-narrative function for destroying of the organic whole of the art-deed and of the originality of the very originality of the art making. In the postmodernism, the quote is used as an expression of the idea that there is no origin-source text, but that there are only the transformations and rearranging of the existing deeds (quoting of the quotes, transfiguration, linguistic traces). Rejecting the subjective types of strategies that consider the expression of the author’s originality, the postmodernism creates an art from a game of quoting, openly showed imitations, borrowings and the variants of other one’s themes. In Angels on a Dump is present the link with the surrealistic film, through the quotes of De Sika and Fellini, the legendary scene with the boat. In Gypsy Magic, Indian films are directly quoted. In Maklabas, there is a direct omage of the pop art. In Light Gray are quoted the well-known films of Sergio Leone. And, in the Goodbye to the 20th Century the quotations are numerous: Mad Max, 101 Dalmatians, The Fifth Element, Batman, the Manaki Brothers’ films, the partisan films, etc.
The self-reference is a special metatextual situation in which the author (or/and his poetics) became an object of its own text. So, in Maklabas, Aleksandar Stankovski recycles his own previous deeds, his previous art-means and poetics from other media – paintings, photo-arts, installations, intellectual preoccupations and theses expressed by him in numerous other media, etc. Gaining the self-conscience about his own means and poetics, the postmodern artist also gains the conscience onto the way of the discourse’s constructing, both art and non-art ones. In many cases, the postmodern self-reference is a comment on the esthetical history of the genre it has adopted. Exactly that kind of use is the one applied on the classical spaghetti-western opening in the omnibus Light Gray, where the familiarity with the genre is used in one banal, common and marginal sequence with no importance – whatsoever – for the film diegesis. Stole Popov, on the other hand, in his films practices his own appearance – with no lines – pointing his “status” that way.
The intermediality is breaking the genre limits between the various texts, merging the experiences from the various media and arts. Pavao Pavlichic (1988) claims that the intermediality is “a mean/procedure with which the structures and materials inherent for some medium are transferred into other media, and at least the one of them is an art one”. With that, the enrichment of the sense or of the expression attractiveness is achieved. The real intermedia relation, by Pavlichic, is when the different art media will preserve its status, and in the same time they engage into some meaningful relation, and not if the one is in service of the another. The texts that belong to different media should be read simultaneously. The Macedonian postmodern films constitute intermedia relations with the music, video art, comics, then with the animated films for children, documentary films, video art and the television. In Maklabas, the numerous sequences are realized as a video art, whose main aesthetic goal is to visualize the colorful world under the influence of the hallucinogenic drugs, although there is a dilemma is it a drugged world or the alien world or some parallel dimension. As completely special segments there are the (documentary-filmed) sequences of the public social meetings, protests, art exhibitions and concerts; those can be considered both for an amateur or documentary film sequences. In Goodbye to the 20th Century, the comic-book matrix is full-time present in the whole film, and what imposes most, is the transforming of the tattoo drawings into the film diegesis, the little scene when the children toys are caught in one sequence, a detail that can be treated as a mini-puppeteer film, and the quiz-show interventions are like so, either. The musical pieces in the films Goodbye to the 20th Century, Maklabas, Light Gray and Before the Rain can be treated as music video clips, because the music there doesn’t has only a standard role of the functional element in the film semiosis, but they are completely separated wholes: the John Ilija Appelgreen and the saloon-singer in Light Gray, the colorful introduction of Macedonia by the band Anastasia in Before the Rain, the punk and opera tracks in Goodbye of the 20th Century and the various music interventions in Maklabas.
The palimpsest is the text written over some other text that is previously erased. The physical erasing of the text is the most distant critic of the interpretation. Actually, the text is freed of his relation and attitude towards its forebear at the domain of the content, because those two inscriptions aren’t linked by the theme or story, but the later one is condemned to its forebear in the frames of their way of existence. So, the fact that the later text doesn’t addresses its forebear is of no importance, because it can’t be acquitted by its precursor. The drastic example is the black & white sequence for the first incest in the Goodbye of the 20th Century. That palimpsest isn’t in any connection with the other two wholes in the film, except in the arch-theme: the incest, which is one of the
main themes in the film. With the fact that this part doesn’t match nor chronologically nor in the story line, we don’t know (for sure) the linkage between those, is it that the one precedes the another two, or is it the inspiration for the film, or is it of a later origin… The palimpsest is present on another level of the film. Because the scenes are constructed both photographically and scenographically, by the pattern of the previous existing films, the real scenes exist in a palimpsest way behind these, newly filmed. The character of Kuzman is also of a palimpsest provenience. Within him, there are numerous threads of other characters: Kuzman Kapidan, Bolen Dojchin, Rambo, Dracula, etc. Through the palimpsest, the postmodern– most deeply – penetrates into the credo that everything is already said and that nothing new can be said and that everything what remains is to repeat somebody else’s experience.
Macedonian postmodern films also most use the allegory of all of the rhetorical figures. The allegory is an inversion of the metaphor. While with the metaphor the metaphorical frame of the reference is absent and the literal meaning present, at the allegory that is reverse. The allegory is the direct translation of the abstract concepts at the transparently motivated narrative (McHale, 1987:141). The allegory is attracted by the fragmented nature, the nature of the unfinished, of the incomplete. The allegory deed is synthetic, it is an accumulation, an impertinence, a hybrid. In the allegory can enter everything, but without internal communication within.
Exactly because of the unclear, hermetic and invisible allegorical sense, Macedonian films have burdened reception. In them we can see characters and action threads that only in delusional way move through a known and real “landscapes. There, the allegorical meaning pushes away all what precedes; it is only an annex to that meaning. The characters are only contours of some other ones, of some memories, of some known but lost narratives, which are only pale breaks into the memory.
Brian McHale thinks that the parody is a perfect postmodern form, and that it also incorporates and re-examines the models that are the object of its function. The parody inverts the meaning vectors and orientations of the object model that is parodied. The Macedonian films are exactly like that, tensed between the identification and the discrepancy, between the inversion of the meaning orientation and maintaining the original determinations. In those films there is no presence of that strict modernist parody in which, through that parody, the moral firmness and spiritual integrity of the author are kept steady and constant. In contrary, in the postmodernism, the parody is always a self-parody. Actually, the parodied model is always the only way that the film exists. In the above-mentioned sequence of the film Light Gray, the spaghetti-western model is being parodied, but that is the only and single way of the introductory part of the film. The parody of the national, up to myth raised models; then, of the biblical discourses, of the family dramas, of the high-budget films, etc., is the whole story of Goodbye to the 20th Century. The goal of the radical parody in Maklabas is the undergoing of the poetics idiom strategy – the underground as a sub-cultural trend. There, the science fiction genre is being parodied, with the choosing of the “low-tech” science fiction form, then with the hybridization of the genre with the conspirative theories as a proved subversive literature and through the additional travestying of the SF genre from within, with the parody of the genre canons. The advanced technique as a background isn’t taken seriously, it is an ugly distopia, the accent is upon the “cartelisation” of the future, upon the growing Mafia conglomerates that are a threat to the national government in a zero-level of the temporal distance. The sub-cultural milieu of Skopje is presented by the scum, the underground and the marginal figures. The degradation and the simplifying of the rationality and emotionality are drawn to the very limits, the parody of the characters and situations is realized with the burlesque roughness, the individual and social faults and defects are vulgarized, the simple and vulgar “langue” – the slang of the underground dominates and the melodramatic sequences are being “cleaned” from their pathetic. The central motive is the carnevalization of the dreadful social subject – the drug misuse. Even here the cheerful, anti-nihilistic relativization dominates. With the paronomastic bending of the names and toponyms from the reality (Mousedonia, Skotje, Gazi Babe, etc.) are parodied all the toponyms and characters that we can encounter in our real life.
A significant creative integration of the different tradition types appears because of the new eclectic approach towards the author’s originality and the art-deed, as well as towards the genre and style. Abandoning the imperative of the new and the original, the eclecticism in this meaning uses all means that are available. It quotes all the known styles of the era. That’s why this postmodern film works are of multi-genre nature. They begin from an ideology of mistrust towards all values; it is a theory of the exhaustion and decay when everything is already said, so we can only quote and re-tell what’s already said.
The pastiche is the most used eclectic form in this films (French: pastiche – a mixture, an imitation of some author’s or some poetics’ manner of work or structure with intention to be presented as the real thing, a deception, false presentation, a forgery; pastiche – a text made by the means and structures of the another, imitation). Because there is no subject or author’s individuality and there is nothing new or any linear history, a postmodern space is being created, in which all practices and styles are allowed. In that freed game of “choices” doesn’t exist any determining system that would create any priorities or build any hierarchy of meaningful values. All the elements and codes are present in a relieving and uninteresting sense, freed if any modernistic imperative. The use of the pastiches in the postmodern art relieves the styles not only of their specific context, but also of their historical sense. In that direction, Goodbye to the 20th Century is functioning as a mixture of pastiches – of post-apocalyptic drama, family tragedy, futurist spectacle and black & white documentary… They are mixed with no regards to their real historical-art context, but they also enter in some kind of the post-historical space, in which all practices are allowed, all styles and strategies from the past, and in which even the chronotop (with no matter how directly determined it is) doesn’t seem familiar and fixed into the concrete time & place. It’s about the apocalyptic conscience of the postmodern, which looks upon the history as upon a ruin (Killb, 1988:24), or as a paranoid conspiracy theory, like in Maklabas.
The postmodern in the Macedonian film isn’t great in quantum, there are only few films, but what considers the quality, i.e. the presence of the postmodern characteristics and means, as we saw above, the postmodern is emphatically present at the above-mentioned film authors. The first appearance, in the style of the neo-conservative replay, we can see in 1986 in the film Happy New ’49, directed by Stole Popov. This author uses (although with a quite less quantity) the postmodern techniques or themes in his later films Tattoo and Gypsy Magic. The real “boom” of the postmodern in the Macedonian cinematography is actually in the 90’s, same as within the other arts: the literature, the theater, etc. Modestly predicted by Mančevski with his film Before the Rain, the postmodern bursts with the almost pure films by the tandem Popovski & Mitrevski (Light Gray, Goodbye to the 20th Century), and at the first time with Janakievic also (Light Gray), and by Aleksandar Stankovski (Maklabas); further, by the Dimitrie and Tomislav Osmanli (Angels on a Dump), and finally with the Mančevski’s Dust. The way of the organizing
of the postmodern esthetical characteristics in these films shows the inclination toward the rebellion against the conventional film models, experimentation and burdened reception. That’s a moment that can be discussed if we have in sight the so-called art-mask of the postmodernism, the semiotics of the quotes, in which the subversive art is applied upon the (at the first sight) acceptable and communicative film patterns and models. Because of the technical, technological and material difficulties, the films are quite rarely made in Macedonia, and they are in the small amount, so this authors doesn’t easily get a chance to express themselves through the filming more films. On the other hand, there is a row of younger authors with the obvious postmodern inclinations (at the fields of the documentary film, video art, music video clips TV film, etc.) that still didn’t get a chance to express themselves through the long-length feature film forms. Because of those reasons, the Macedonian postmodern film exists more as a potential, more as an announcement that uses many strategies of the film survival, and, more or less, for any kind of a creative engagement – so it can be better analyzed if this kind of research widen itself towards the coverage of the whole audio-visual medium.
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Translated by: Petar Volnarovski