Unreal Nature

November 5, 2015

The Knot in the Head

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:44 am

… you cannot make anything beautiful. Things have beauty or they don’t have beauty.

This is from the author’s interview with the late Michael Glawogger in Avant-Doc: Intersections of Documentary and Avant-Garde Cinema by Scott MacDonald (2015):

[ … ]

MacDonald: For me the quintessential sequence in Megacities is the man sifting the colors for dye. In a health sense, the work he’s doing must be horrible — I can’t imagine breathing this stuff all day long — and yet at the same time there’s a gorgeous element to that sequence. This mixture of horror and beauty is what gives your films their vitality. You’re looking at struggle, but there’s a glorious element in the struggle that comes through color, through composition, in many ways.


Glawogger: That’s really the essence of what I do, but I didn’t know it at the time I was shooting that imagery. Plato says beauty is the splendor of truth — I really believe that. People accuse me sometimes of making things beautiful, but that’s utterly impossible: you cannot make anything beautiful. Things have beauty or they don’t have beauty. If it’s not out there, if it’s not in the world, we can’t film it, and Wolfgang, my cameraman, knows that. We do what we can to enhance the exposure and so forth, but otherwise we don’t make anything: we just film the stuff. The beauty is out there and the beauty is the splendor of the truth that comes across.


I’m interested in situations that are contradictory, like the situation you’ve described or in the slaughterhouse sequence in Workingman’s Death, situations that produce what I call “the knot in the head.” When you see a scene that’s about killing animals, but that also feels beautiful, you say to yourself, “How can that be?” You don’t know what to think. And there is no answer to this; there is only the knot in our heads.


My most recent previous post from MacDonald’s book is here.




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