Saturday, November 11, 2017

Notes on Ekjon Kobir Mrityu (Death of a Poet) by Abu Sayeed, Bangladesh: 2017

Abu Sayeed is one one of a few directors from Bangladesh whose films were shown on some international film festivals. His newest film Ekjon Kobir Mrityu is not only one of his most willful one. Three different kind of films came into my mind: first Citizen Kane by Orson Welles, Geschichtsunterricht (History Lesson) by Jean-Marie Straub and Daniele Huillet and the films by Marguerite Duras, her Aurelia-Steiner-films and Le Mains Negatives (The negative Hands). The puzzle-structure of Citizen Kane which recapitulate a human life, the work with text and images like Duras and Straub/Huillet seem to be united in Abu Sayeed´s most experimental film.

The film goes through several transformations. At the beginning there is a famous poet who suffers under insomnia. He has a strange dream about a woman dressed in white, a kind of death angel. On the next morning his son finds the poet dead. With the death of the only visible person, the narration takes only place in the off. While the family is busy to arrange the funeral ceremony, including to transport his corps to the place of his funeral, newspapers and television news are preparing special features on the death of this poet. What we see and about what the invisible acteurs are talking goes different ways. Several time we see a huge printing press and with a bit of imagination it sounds a bit like an analog film projectior. A human life has expired. Ekjon Kobir Mrityu becomes now what remains of a human identity. First of all we see the devices who conserve the collective memory, TV-cameras, audio tapes and the printing press. The dialogues by the acteurs which remain invisble are dealing from personal dialogues between the members of the family, interviews with his colleagues or contemporaries, editors and journalists are providing special features for TV and newspaper. Sometimes we hear dialogues from a phone conversation. If a dialogue takes place in a newspaper editorial office or in a TV-studio we see only fragments of persons. They remain totally anonymous. These dialogues from the off are providing the film with a kind of narration which will never be illustrated through images. This is exactly what Abu Sayeed´s film has to do with Duras`Aurelia Steiner-films and her Les Mains Negatives.

The heart of the film is an extremely long car ride on a street which is literally cut through the concrete and datable landscape of Bangladesh – but also through the whole film. There are traffic jams. Several construction places are visible. It is a journey through a disgraced and polluted landscape. When these car travels remind me in Straub/Huillet´s Geschichtsunterricht than because they are pure traces of reality which happens outside the limited frame and which remain equal to the element of fictive narration. In Straub Huillet´s film it was the real Rome of the 1970s and in Abu Sayeed´s film it is the presence the real landscape of Bangladesh. And it is exactly the collision of reality and fiction which gives this film a nearly dreamlike quality. The more prosaic the film becomes the more it inspired my imagination.

Ekjon Kobir Mrityu is a poetic film essay which works on several levels. First of all it tells about the point when a private life has expired and migrates first to the memories of the loved ones and later to the more complex collective memory of a society. As the organic and the spiritual life of the poet has lapsed, the film tells more and more about the remains. It is a little truck which has to transport the corps a long way. The printing press refers not only to the newspapers but as well to the printed words of the poet which remain like crystallized traces of his life. How his family deals with the loss and how the representatives of public life deals with a collective memory, the film is always looking for the relationship between the material and spiritual aspect of human lives. As film is, like Godard once said, “always a documentary about the visible things in the world”, Abu Sayeed´s Ekjon Kobir Mrityu is such a “documentary about the visible things” but it detects the traces of a fleeting human life and it´s poetry. At the end a poem of the dead poet is recited and it is about the beauty of stars. As stars are often subject of poetry they are also evident as the fusion reactor where all the elements arise we are finally made of. Abu Sayeed´s admirable film is as well a wise and exciting essay on cinema, it´s material but also it´s poetic and spiritual aspects.

Rüdiger Tomczak