For Dekmantel Festival 2019, The Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision’s RE:VIVE initiative and Dekmantel teamed up for the third time to invite four artists to bring fresh music to a curation of Dutch archival films.
As debuted live in Amsterdam’s Eye Filmmuseum, 2019 featured new scores from Safe Trip eclectic left-of-centre DJ / producer, Max Abysmal, 80s pastiche, keyboard wizard duo, Lamellen, Italian contemporary composer and saxophonist, Laura Agnusdei and heavy-hitter, Identified Patient. 2019’s films were as diverse as the invited artists. Three of the films come Academy Award winning Dutch producer, Nico Crama whose collection is held by The Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision while Comeback (Poppenfilm) was made by amateur Dutch filmmaker, Otto Laan. The four films showcase thirty years of Dutch experimental filmmaking at its best.
De Stuiter by Jan Oonk, is a young boy’s tale of loss and recovery shot in the early 70s in Amsterdam. After happening upon a chance game of marbles, the protagonist loses his prized marble to a non-descript authoritative figure. What follows is a dramatic chase, as the boy tracks his marble to a military compound and recovers it during a blaze of explosions and gunfire from a whole battalion. The film won the Jury Prize at Cannes in 1971 for Best Short Film. De Stuiter’s freakish, corny tone and slapstick-pacifist message immediately resonated with Lamellen. They treat their score like a beautiful block of marble, only having to chip away here and there to bring the right energy and suspense to what they refer to as a “Dutch fantasy masterpiece”. The colors, tone and morals couldn’t align more perfectly with Lamellen’s bubbly, swirling, rollingly, round sound.
Comeback (Poppenfilm) by Otto Laan, is an animated ghost story. Set in a dark cemetery on a dreary, stormy night, a lonely ghost wanders lost until he finds a lover. Happy together, they conjure a daughter for themselves. The family merrily dances, sharing in their united love until a hand reaches from an open grave, striking down the father and mother who vanish; abandoning the child, left alone in the darkness. No stranger to gloom, Identified Patient balances the dark and light with his score. His piece accents abandonment, affection and an emptiness towards the creation of new love. He takes inspiration from his nostalgia for the TV show, Verhalen van de Boze Heks, a children’s series that equally balanced the folksome horror with lighter motifs. Identified Patient runs a balancing act with his score grounded by a heavy thumping (heart) beat.
Quod Libet, from famed Dutch animator, Gerrit van Dijk is an absurd exploration of erotic transfiguration. What starts as a male and female figure devolves into different representations of sexuality and genitalia. These transformations manifest themselves through human motives like possession, violence and eroticism. The animations are unique to van Dijk’s iconic style, humorous yet visually confronting. Not overpowering the film’s imagery, Max Abysmal resorts to homemade instruments to voice his absurdity, walking the line between foley and score to accentuate the creepy and obscure Van Dijk animations.
Fuga, a 1996 short film from Hans Nassenstein is a stark, stoic piece of reflection. It begins with a man playing the piano. He arises to look out the window through which he witnesses a summary of his life where a boy’s dreams turn into the reality of adulthood. References to war, communism, joy and parenthood play out outside the window. Made near the end of his career, Nassenstein’s Fuga is a stark vignette of life. For Italian composer Laura Agnusdei, it was a coincidence the film’s title came from the Italian word for “escape”. She composed a simple whistling melody to enlighten the elements of liberation she interpreted in the film. The score ebbs and flows like the film’s beach scenes, ending with an embrace of life as the man sits at the piano, his coat that he’d previously donned presumably on his way to work, cast aside in the corner unafraid of the cold as his life enters its winter.