• Bible Films Blog

    Looking at film interpretations of the stories in the Bible - past, present and future, as well as preparation for a future work on Straub/Huillet's Moses und Aron and a few bits and pieces on biblical studies.

    Matt Page


    Thursday, June 12, 2008

    El Cant Dels Ocells (Birdsong)

    Amongst the things I missed whilst on holiday last week (was it only last week?) was news of a new film about the magi. Birdsong (El Cant Dels Ocells) is Albert Serra's take on the story which showed at Cannes this year. Justin Chang from Variety describes it as:
    Hushed, contemplative, but often quite droll, experiment offers beautifully sculpted images on a black-and-white canvas across its sometimes hypnotic, sometimes tedious runtime... Three robed men (all played by thesps with the first name Lluis) tread very, very slowly across a craggy landscape, bickering comically over how they should proceed in their search for the Christ Child. Grounded in desert dunes and rocky ruins, pic reps a profound attempt to locate the spiritual within the material. There's no disputing Serra's remarkable eye (some brief underwater footage is especially mesmerizing), though most shots, such as one that reduces the men to specks on the horizon, are sustained well past the endurance point. Absent any unnatural light, much less a guiding star, nighttime shots are impenetrable.
    It sounds very similar to Ermanno Olmi's Cammina, Cammina which I reviewed last year (although perhaps the images are a little more refined). That's an observation shared by Peter Chattaway who's not yet managed to see Olmi's film. Doug Cummings is considerably more positive, however. "Serra has found an even more exalted and stunning sky-and-earth atmosphere (the rocky, volcanic heights of the Canary Islands substituting for the Mid-East desert) than he did for Honor de cavalleria". There's also a good length review from l'Humanité which notes Serra's indebtedness to Pasolini and concludes that with "its use of a wide screen, of static shots (with very few exceptions), this contemplative, sensitive film takes us on a quest for the essence of cinema, even as its characters are questing for the essence of something else."

    There's not a great deal of further information on this film, even in the more Cannes-friendly section of the press. It's in Catalan and Hebrew and at 96 minutes is considerably shorter than Cammina Cammina.

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