“On the mental count of ten, you will be in Europa. Be there at ten. I say: ten.”
Watching Lars von Trier‘s Europa trilogy (‘The Element of Crime‘, ‘Epidemic‘ and ‘Europa‘), especially the last part – ‘Europa‘ (1991) – really took me by surprise. Even though it is some of his earliest work, and somewhat different from his later movies, it really stuck with me afterwards. Set in a dark and depressing post-war Germany, it is full of haunting images of trains moving through a bombed-out scenery, rain (lots of rain!), and all sorts of other weird things. Add some fairly unusual camera work, technical trickery, a great soundtrack, and you have got a pretty special movie. The film’s prologue in which Max von Sydow counts to ten, as part of some sort of strange hypnosis, is merely the beginning to a movie filled with original ideas. Although the trilogy explores similar themes and has a number of stylistic and aesthetic elements in common, the narrative is not connected or continued across the movies. I think anyone who is into Tarkovsky or Lynch will enjoy this one. I’d also recommend ‘The Element of Crime’ in case anyone should feel the need for more semi-monochrome movies after having watched ‘Europa’.
‘Means Without End – Notes on Politics’ (Giorgio Agamben, 2000) is a book I would definitely recommend. It is a collection of small essays that serve as a great starting point to his work. Agamben is perhaps one of the most influential and important living philosophers, and although his writing is quite dense, I do think that most people will find something interesting in these texts. The essays tackle a variety of issues – from sovereignty and the modern state, to texts on language, ‘the face’, and ‘bare life’. The book is also fairly small, so it’s easy to read it on the go.
I recently travelled across Vietnam and ended up in Ho Chi Minh City. Here, among other things, I visited the War Remnants Museum. It contains a large amount of photographs from the Vietnam War and its aftermath, including pictures of massacres and of people born with all kinds of deformities due to chemicals used during the war. At some point, it all became too much, and I had to leave the museum. The collection serves as a grim reminder of the excesses and violence brought about by war. It is a testament to the fragility of life, but also to a certain kind of adaptability; an ability to go on even in the face of such despair, hopelessness. I am not sure I’d recommend this to anyone, as it is not a pleasant affair at all, but on the other hand, it has really stuck with me as an important experience.