Laurence Boyce hjá Cineuropa skrifar umsögn um Atelier, útskriftarmynd Elsu Maríu Jakobsdóttur frá Danska kvikmyndaskólanum. Myndin var sýnd á nýliðinni Karlovy Vary hátíð.
“I need some space,” is perhaps something of relationship cliché but the attitude that human beings have to notions of being alone has always been complex. One the one hand we crave togetherness and the comfort of friends and partners. On the other there is a desire to find our own space in the world, somewhere we can be isolated from the insanity of modern life. Elsa María Jakobsdóttir’s Atelier deals with not only the tension between these two modes of being but also how subtly manipulative human beings can be when trying to get what they want.
A young, unnamed woman wends her to a remote studio where she is looking to isolate herself from the world. The modern complex in the middle of nowhere offers her a utopian escape from life, but the silence is disturbed when it becomes clear that the house is also being used by a sound artist preparing some of her latest works. The two women now find themselves locked in a silent conflict as they begin to try and search for what the other actually wants. Some sort of resolution seems to be assured but when a third party enters the situation, matters are brought to a head as one of them is determined to make sure that they get exactly what they want.
Atelier is a stark and brittle affair with Jakobsdóttir having little regard for narrative exposition. The reasons for our main protagonist’s wish to visit the studio are left vague and ambiguous. Her phone calls, trying to contact the mysterious Daniel, suggest some sort of relationship break-up but the reasons are never made totally clear. This ambiguity adds a sheen of uneasiness throughout the film, the air of a life unexplained and hidden. This is added to by the addition of our secondary protagonist. Her status as a sound artist, as well as later hints of sexual tension between the two, ostensibly bring chaos, as the realities of life become impossible to escape from. Yet the film questions as to who exactly is the invader in the scenario we see before us. Should the demand for isolation and silence be seen as any less encroaching or arrogant as the penetration of noise and reality?
In many ways, the studio is a third character in the film a modernist space of peace and calm that also doubles as a labyrinth in which the characters cannot escape from. Cinematographer Annika Aschberg emphasises the contradictions at the centre of the space – ostensibly a place of serenity, the mere presence of human beings bring disorder and change. The camera is often a fixed presence, observing the characters with more than a touch of voyeurism. Is our very presence also destroying any hope of finding peace in the world?
Atelier skirts with many genres – flirting with horror, thriller and psychosexual drama – while influences from the likes of Hitchcock and Polanski are apparent. But Jakobsdóttir – herself a Icelander living in Denmark – also adds elements that explore the fear of being an outsider whilst wanting to mark out your individuality. A confluence of languages throughout the film – alongside the ambiguous nature of the characters and their situations – remind us about this duality and the constant battle within ourselves. The end of the film suggests that this battle is natural but also maybe unresolvable.
Sjá nánar hér: Future Frames 2017 Review: Atelier – Cineuropa Shorts