the duel (2008)

video-performance, 16 mm exported to DVD 4:3, 4’36’’

In the Praga Północ district in Warsaw, on the corner of Targowa and Wileńska streets, vis a vis the Orthodox church of Saint Cyril and Methodius, vis a vis the Braterstwa Broni Statue, there stands a tenement which I call “blind, deaf and dumb”. This house, quite big, simple and austere, with one human gesture was first brought to life and then deprived of its function, and all of its windows closed. Standing in the line of other “living” buildings it provokes with its different character, its uselessness, its dysfunction within the body of the city. It is somehow handicapped, excluded, and proud at the same time, imposing, unmoved. One may think that it belongs to a different world, a world ruled by other laws that the ones we know and that we are a part of, and what we see is just a facade that exists there by accident, left there by mistake. This facade seemed to me to be a teleport. A gate through which one may go to “the other”, to enter “the other”.

I played out a situation in which three protagonists: a woman and two men perform the “rite of passage”. Three characters appear between the buildings, step out from the city crowd and go to a previously set place to perform a magical ritual. The figures leave the crowd and they are alien to it because of their otherness of appearance and behaviour. The viewer may have an impression that what he or she sees is two parallel worlds which have suddenly overlapped. The “black three” crosses the street together with others, in a similar rhythm, together with them they participate in an urban ritual of crossing the zebra, however, when we recognize them we have no doubt that they differ from the rest of the pedestrians. Because of their costumes and because of the clear determination in their movements and the order in which they are walking (woman inside slightly overtaking the men on her right and left) the figures, it is clear, represent a world different from the real one. They are like from a fairy tale, made up. Each move they make is according to the previously established order. They are wearing attributes. The men are wearing top hats, the woman a black cape. One of the men is holing a black box, as we find out later, with two Duel pistols and wads of black fabric inside. The model of narration – image-building is formally very active. The movement of the characters, slowed down or made faster by the change of the pace of frames, adequately stimulates the way the narration is received by the viewer. Numerous close-ups and long shots of the object observed by the camera, as well as the view of the object from many perspectives, introduce the viewer into the symbolic world of gestures and props. This image is constructed on the basis of its technical aspects, the use of the language of film, quality and the errors of the celluloid tape of 16 mm, the use of lenses placed on a disc, a smooth change of frames and shots, different kinds of perspectives (frog’s perspective, American shot, a long shot). The awareness of the structure of the motion picture and human perception, illusion that can be built basing on this awareness, made it possible to create an image very active in its function, to create a “self-aware” image”, “self-contemplating”, “self-perfecting”.

Watching “The Dual” one may have an impression that the film image has become a protagonist, that it gained autonomy and now it tests itself, infiltrates itself, plays with itself and with the viewer’s perception.
It tries to show one story in several ways, it dies down, shakes, “closes one eye and looks with the other one, it closes both eyes” – the image disappears – blackness. The film was made as a formal experiment. It was not made to tell a story, but to give autonomy to the language of the film and by separating this autonomy to let it take the viewer through the “rite of passage” together with the protagonist. And she – a female character enters the act of the duel being first deprived of the possibility of reacting to stimuli. She is made deaf, blind and devoid of physical attributes of her sex so that she can confront the similarly “castrated”, wounded and exposed city house. The woman, as in a traditional duel, is accompanied by seconds – “the angels of death”, witnesses. The seconds are active here. They “prepare” the woman who passively submits to their actions. The shots suggests that the “body of the house” can be compared to the body of the woman. The female figure, filmed from bottom up, seems as monumental as the house. By the act of the symbolic mutilation of the female body, this body is made similar to the wounded body of the building. The woman’s only active gesture is to throw away her cape. This way she gives the men the signal to start the ritual. Her passivity is the passivity of one standing in front of the building. The act of the shooting the house is a fatal one – inevitable. The woman falls three times, the image self-contemplates the act of falling. The ritual is completed, it has been performed, the attention is back on the house. The building is unmoved.

The music in “The Duel” is a formal music, a tissue of sound which deprives the viewer of the real aspect of the watched image. The sound introduces unrest and it is emphatic. It is unnaturally “shredded”, “bended”, “cut”, electronically reworked. Only during the first static shot that observes the characters coming there can be heard the melody of Handel’s sarabande, used previously in S. Kubrick’s “Barry Lyndon”.

Warsaw 30.08.2008