TIERE SCHAUEN

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by Pawel Szostak

grade: 7.5

Distorted sounds, overexposed images, oblique framing. This is the stylistic signature of Tiere Schauen. All for a direction with no apparent rules. Yet, loud and clear is the message Pawel Szostak wants to convey with his work.

An anteater’s dream

Zoos and aquariums: the paradise of many children, as well as many adult visitors. But how do animals experience all this? What does it mean for them to be constantly in captivity and under thousands of gazes every day? In this regard, video artist Pawel Szostak, in his Tiere Schauen (Als der Ameisenbär träumte) – “watching the animals (when the anteater was dreaming)” – tried to tell us everything from the perspective of an anteater. This work of his was made available to the audience as part of the programme Diagonale 2020 – The Unfinished, following the cancellation of the Diagonale 2020.

Distorted sounds, overexposed images, oblique framing. This is the stylistic signature of Tiere Schauen. The resulting alienating effect is, then, precisely to suggest the perception of one of the animals present. And so, right from the first frames, everything seems confused, with images that follow one after the other, showing us now animals inside a cage or an aquarium, now people having fun playing with them, knocking on the walls of the aforementioned aquariums or simply observing them.

Muffled voices dub evocative images of colourful birds, dozing chimpanzees and, last but not least, an anteater intent on sleeping, who wakes up only to eat something lazily. All in a mise en scène with no apparent rules. Yet, loud and clear is the message Pawel Szostak wants to convey with this Tiere schauen.

In this regard, the environments depicted here do not seem at all cosy or, in any way, pleasant. On the contrary, they are depicted in front of the camera in a cramped, almost claustrophobic way. The anteater himself, the protagonist of the short film, rather than being sleepy, seems to us almost tired, without motivation, with no desire to react to the outside world.

And immediately, we think of the famous documentary Blood of the Beasts, directed by Georges Franju in 1949 and set in some slaughterhouses on the outskirts of Paris. We agree: stylistically speaking, this work by Pawel Szostak is totally different. And it makes blinding lights, muffled sounds and extremely saturated colours its main strong point. A stylistic signature, this one, typical of many of the director’s works, whose main aim is to shock and unsettle the audience with magnetic images, deliberately overturning any convictions they may have.

This, then, is also the case with Tiere schauen. The powerful – and also, at times, poetic – portrayal of a reality seen through the eyes of those who experience it personally.

Original title: Tiere Schauen (Als der Ameisenbär träumte)
Directed by: Pawel Szostak
Country/year: Austria / 2020
Running time: 8’
Genre: documentary, experimental
Screenplay: Pawel Szostak
Cinematography: Pawel Szostak
Produced by: Pawel Szostak

Info: Tiere schauen on youtube; the website of Pawel Szostak