#425 Antonio Gaudí
1984 // Japan // Hiroshi Teshigahara
Criterion Release Date: 18 Mar 2008 (LINK)
Barcelona belongs to Antonio Gaudí. It could be too bold (or maybe ignorant) to make a statement like this, but I wholeheartedly believe so, despite the fact that I have never set foot on Catalonia or even Spain before. My knowledge on Gaudí and his magnificent oeuvre solely came from an exhibition in Tokyo couple years ago, and I could never forget the model of the still constructing masterpiece, the Sagrada Família, ever after. On the other hand, I came across the films of the multidisciplinary artist and filmmaker Hiroshi Teshigahara much later on. I was stunned by his works including Woman in the Dunes (1964) and The Face of Another (1966). Still I didn’t realize there was a connection between these two geniuses long beforehand, until now.
In 1959, Teshigahara was astonished by Gaudí’s works while he accompanied his father Sofu Teshigahara, an avant-grade artist and master in ikebana (flower arranging), on an exhibition tour in United Status and Europe. He later on revisited the works of Gaudí and the their aura in the newest form of expression in arts: documentary cinema. The product, a film called Antonio Gaudí, was undoubtedly Teshigahara’s passion project. Imbued with reverence and admiration, there is hardly any dialogue or explanatory words, except a few comments during the last act on the construction of the Sagrada Família. Teshigahara turned the film into a visual essay and a poetry, recapturing the beauty of Gaudí’s achievement with an objective eye, the camera.
From a dancing crowd in the middle of a Square to the hectic La Boqueria Market, the daily life and the human element in Catalonia were juxtaposed with the nature-inspired non-linear works of Gaudí. The camera slid through the architectural space, framing on the parabolic curve or the mosaic tiles, while the spectators were teleported into an uncanny yet sacred territory by the music of Toru Takemitsu. It could be confusing geographically due to a lack of introduction on locations, but as a result, it expunged any distractions from focusing on the architectural design itself. The film ended with a quote from Gaudí, “Everything comes from the great book of nature; Human attainments are an already printed book”, Gaudí has immortalized Barcelona, and Teshigahara attempted to immortalize Gaudí’s works in film. Two geniuses existed and left with contemplative works perpetually, are all we need is open our eyes and see.