Thursday, February 27, 2020

Notes on Huntsville Station, by Jamie Meltzer and Chris Fillippone, USA: 2020-BerlinFilmfestival V-BerlinaleShorts V

The film I saw on the screen is only 14 minutes long but the film I have in my memory seems to be longer somewhere between a Direct Cinema documentary and a film poem by Terrence Malick.

Inmates are just released from prison. Their prison sentence is finished. They are gathering at a bus station somewhere in Texas. A overweight man offers goods the men need now most urgently, new clothes, a phone call to the beloved ones and a bus ticket. Bus stations are like railway stations or airports in films always nowhere lands, places of transition. In this film the former inmates have just finished one big part of their life story (that we don´t know) and before they can continue with their life in the future (we never will know) they are stuck here for a short while. The former inmates are of different ages and from different ethnic groups and even if we do not know for what reason they were imprisoned - at this place of transition and in this film they are all equal to us and we can empathize with them like with other persons we see at this bus terminal.
Some of them will return to their loved ones (they might still have or have not), others will have to find their way of life with their new won freedom. The film and this special place - it creates a special mood of departure into a new chapter of life between the rush to finish the past and obviously unpleasant chapter and to begin a new one.
Since my early childhood I am attracted to these places and the first cinema of my life was one of these film theatres placed in German central railway stations, a reason I still consider these places of transition as very cinematic.

A middle aged Afro-American is reflecting loud about the 30 years of his life he has spent in prison. More to himself ( like one of these lost souls in the films by Terrence Malick) than to others. He can´t face the fact that 30 years of his life are irrecoverable lost. One feels sympathy with him even without knowing why he was imprisoned at all.
At the first sight, Huntsville Station appears as a very sober film rather in the great tradition of Direct Cinema. But what the film evokes in me is a whole ocean of human moods and hopes, longings and the strange euphoria of a departure to a new chapter of life. The whole place becomes cinema. There is moment one hears the beautiful sound of an American railway signal, a quite harmonica like sound.
The last shot reveals a blue sky with summer clouds.
Huntsville Station is a film about the lost souls of our time but at the same time a wonderful short cinematic poem. Even if it is seemingly entirely observed cinema, it has as well the beauty of one of these great folk songs America is famous for. In other words, the film is a high concentrated miniature of pure cinema. One takes farewell from the film like from the departing former inmates. Sometimes the ingenuity of cinema is very simple. And this 14 minutes long film will stay with me for a long time.
Rüdiger Tomczak

Screenings (Berlinale Shorts V.)
Thurs, 27. Feb, 16.30, Zoo Palast 3
Fri, 28. Feb, 21.30, Cubix 9
Sat, 29.Feb, Colosseum 1

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