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by Clarissa Thieme

grade: 8

What remains/Re-visited, the newest film by documentary filmmaker Clarissa Thieme, presents itself immediately as a fascinating combination of arts. A successful combination of cinema and photography, designed to tell us about ten years of change, suffering and stubborn resilience.

Pictures speak to us

Time, we know, sometimes wipes out all wounds. Often, however, it happens that, unfortunately, scars hardly disappear. Just as it was for the countries of the former Yugoslavia, where the consequences of the war are still evident today, in a large number of towns and villages that are still being rebuilt and are struggling to recover from the terrible conflict that took place more than twenty-five years ago. Just as the touching What remains/Re-visited (original title: Was bleibt | Sta Ostaje | What remains/Re-visited), premiered at the Berlinale 2020, in the experimental Forum section, testifies.

In order to document life in these devastated yet fascinating places, German filmmaker Clarissa Thieme travelled to Bosnia and Herzegovina and, resuming an old project of hers from ten years ago, returned to the same places she had previously visited, in order to show how they are changing or, depending on the situation, still suffering from the consequences of the war.

The floor, then, to the images. It immediately presents itself as a fascinating combination of arts, What remains/Re-visited. A successful combination of cinema and photography in which there is no place at all for any ‘external intrusion’. Only a caption, at the opening of the film, indicates the purpose of the project. Then, immediately, there are eighteen long shots – made rigorously with a fixed camera – to tell us ten years of history. Ten years of change, suffering and stubborn resilience. Ten years in a single image, in which the two temporal levels are represented, precisely, with two different forms of artistic expression. To photography, then, the task of showing us the past. To cinema, that of illustrating the present.

With big posters to show us the old conditions of the environments shown, the director – with the help of a collaborator – places herself in front of the camera, giving us the opportunity to compare the two different realities. Everything else subsequently comes by itself. And so, from time to time, curious tourists ask what is being filmed, locals have no difficulty recognising themselves in the old photographs, workers at the market reflect on the not always easy conditions of their work. Clarissa Thieme’s entire crew interacts with all of them, becoming themselves part of the place and of its history. Anything can happen, in front of the camera. With the exception of the eighteen long shots showing the places of the present together with photographs of them from ten years ago, nothing was predetermined by the director during the making of What remains/Re-visited. Reality becomes cinema, cinema becomes a faithful witness of reality, without being afraid to “reveal its tricks”, with microphones peeping in front of the camera from time to time.

And what do spectators, for their part, do? Simple: they are amazed, every time, by the images placed before them, never knowing what to really expect. Just as, in the course of the filming, it was for the director herself. And so What Remains/Re-visited turns out to be a stylistically unique work, like no other, apparently simple, but, in reality, far more complex and stratified than it may initially seem. A film that, in just seventy minutes, manages to tell us not one, but many stories, many memories that will remain forever impressed in the minds and hearts of those who have experienced them. Just like the images of people who are no longer with us, but who, thanks to the old photographs shown here, will live forever.

Original title: Was bleibt I Šta ostaje I What remains / Re-visited
Directed by: Clarissa Thieme
Country/year: Germany, Austria, Bosnia and Herzegovina / 2020
Running time: 70’
Genre: documentary
Screenplay: Clarissa Thieme
Cinematography: Almir Dikoli
Produced by: Kirberg Motors

Info: the page of What remains/re-visited on filmportal.de; the page of What remains/re-visited on the website of the Berlinale; the page of What remains/re-visited on www.clarissathieme.com