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Over Your Cities Grass Will Grow [DVD] 
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Sophie Fiennes' fascinating documentary offers a revealing and intimate insight into the creative process of acclaimed artist Anselm Kiefer. Beautifully shot, the films tracks Kiefer as he transforms the environs of an abandoned silk factory in southern France with an ongoing series of moumental installations.
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La Ribaute is not a convenient place to find on the map, still less one to visit, so Sophie Fiennes' meticulous film is a complete privilege to watch as the next best way to glimpse this extraordinary man's vision. She compiles her survey in four parts - a long chain of semi-stills, with the camera moving in one dimension, sometimes along and back, sometimes up and down, fundamentally content just to depict in good, mainly natural, light; then we see the extraordinary manner of working of this sui generis artist, a fascinating insight; thirdly a lengthy interview with Kiefer, conducted in German by a journalist who flounders out of his depth but Kiefer seamlessly supplies answers to questions that are not asked; then the closing phase lights up the title installations.
The film is intriguing, not least for the way in which time and again it hovers close to the holocaust questions that haunt Kiefer without [the film] ever having the courage to confront them. As a viewer one is left absolutely impressed with Kiefer's unique world (the logistics alone are bizarre - it took 110 lorries to transport the things Kiefer elected to take with him when he left La Ribaute, for example), humbled at the freedom with which his artistic vision scythes through issues and stretches the imagination outwards, and passionately interested to follow where it all may lead.
I went back and bought four copies for gifts to key friends. Anyone even a quarter interested in Kiefer should not hesitate.
workplace, La Ribaute, near Barzac in Southern France. It is a huge site which he
transformed into an immersive environment whose studios and installation spaces,
both above and below ground, reflect the daring scope of his monumental visions.
Sophie Fiennes 2010 film is a powerful but elegiac piece which captures the
elusive and arcane nature of the spirit of her subject's art and working methods.
We see Kiefer and his hardy assistants grappling with the construction of some
enormous pieces whose inspiration seems drawn from the earth and sky of the
local landscape as much as from the artist's long engagement with the darker side of
his homeland's history and his evolving absorption with metaphysical, alchemical and
mythical themes. It is a privileged view of an extraordinarily complex creative process.
The camera moves slowly around this strange place like the eye of an inquisitive animal,
pausing occasionally to take in some small detail but the absence of a descriptive or
explanatory commentary requires that we use our own imagination and interpretive
capacity to try to make sense of what we see. However, a short interview between the
somewhat po-faced Klaus Dermutz and an animated Kiefer, firing on all six intellectual
cylinders, provides a partial and amusing insight into this idiosyncratic artist's inner World.
An intensely engaging and curiously affecting experience.
The film starts with exceedingly long and unexplained scenes of tunnels, sculptures and rooms - this is where I fell asleep the first time because it was totally unclear what we were seeing and how the different places related to each other. In the next section we follow Kiefer's fascinating process of work on a huge painting. Then comes an interview with Kiefer conducted by an unnamed person who seems so awestricken by meeting the master himself that he hardly dares utter his questions.
The answers given by Kiefer are very interesting and should have been used as voice-over explanations in the first section - it would have kept me awake! But we could have done without the interview in the library, which was only made worthwhile because it is finally interrupted by Kiefer's young son and his friend who are looking for something to play with in the background, and although the boys try to search quietly, Kiefer is distracted and visibly annoyed, and the interview ends abruptly. The documentary then goes through the same procedure again, unexplained scenes with sculptures, now in the open landscape, portrayal of the work process and interviews, which - this time, hurrah! - are integrated with the scenes of the work process.
In summary, the film is structured in an exceedingly cumbersome manner and moves at a lethargic pace. I am happy that I managed to watch it all because Kiefer is really a worthwhile and fascinating artist - but I did so despite the unhelpful structure of the film. So watch it, but be well-rested!
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