Monday, September 1, 2008

Runa Islam: "Tuin"

Runa Islam's film titled "Tuin" (1998) recreates an intimate moment between two strangers from Rainer Werner Fassbinder's 1973 film, "Martha." Islam's recreation is captivating and an incredibly effective piece from Realisms at the Hirshhorn Museum. It's easy to stand in the middle of the dark room, hypnotized, watching the footage of the camera dance around the two actors. The strangers approach each other while crossing what appears to be a college campus. As they near their eyes meet and lock while the camera swoops in, spinning around the two actors who exchange a silent intimate moment. It is unclear what the two individuals are thinking as they look intensely at one another. The "movie" footage appears on the screen in color while the actual documenting of the scene appears in black and white, as if to make it appear more factual - like a headline in a newspaper. 

A screen is suspended in the middle of the room, inviting viewers to walk around it thus mimicking the circular motion of the cameras that are operated on a dolly. Islam places the viewer right in the middle of the action and ultimately in the very intimate moment between the two strangers. It is as if the audience is invited on set to observe the film crew intently watching their monitors to ensure that the scene is "just right." My reaction to "Tuin"was somewhat muddled. Islam's exposure of how the camera crew filmed the scene from the movie could take away from the intimacy of the experience, or heighten it. The grainy film footage of the camera crew and the silence that hangs in the room as the camera spans round and round spins a sort of poetic tapestry that the audience can engage with. The piece can also be viewed as a sort of deconstruction of the seemingly contrived romanticism present in so many pop culture films. The source for "Tuin" is after all a film that touches on the sadomasochistic tendencies of monogamous relationships. I ask, does the documenting of the filming of the re-enactment add or take away from this very private, intense scene? If so, then what could be the secondary read?

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