A Tale of Two FilmsTwo videos at Documenta, El Fin del Mundo by MOON Kyungwon and JEON Joonho, and Continuity by Omer Fast, succeed in dealing with huge events and issues by bringing it down to personal experience. The characters in these narratives could be any one of us. Dialogue is sparse and does little to advance the narrative – it all comes down to our personal interpretation of the characters’ facial expressions and interactions.
In addressing the Japan earthquake of 2011, Moon and Jeong cover water shortages and nuclear contamination through the experiences of two characters. A man, post-earthquake, waiting for the end, who never speaks, contrasted with a future researcher who is logging, decontaminating and cataloging, samples that are revealed to be from his workroom. El Fin del Mundo has a clear beginning when the situation is set up – the man sits through an earthquake on one screen, a woman arriving through an airlock, wearing a breathing apparatus, on the other. As the woman research arrives the rules of her future society are read out concerning conservation of water and energy, and prevention of contamination.
The two parts of El Fin del Mundo, projected side by side, have many moments of dialog, mainly as the researcher has glimpses of insight into this man’s world. The issues of a contaminated earth and water shortages are the background to these interconnected, personal narratives, and in those narratives the background issues gain meaning.
In Continuity, which loops and has no clear beginning or end, except perhaps in retrospect, we encounter a mother and father in a series of scenes in which they drive to the train station, greet their son who has returned from Afghanistan, bring him home and eat a meal with him. Then the scenes repeat, but with variations. Each time the son is different – in appearance, in reactions – and so the behavior of the parents changes. The film has a surreal atmosphere – relationships and emotions are at odds with expectations – and this drew me into the long (40min) narrative. Was this a dream or hallucination, what was real? Even after reading the guidebook I am left with more questions than answers – the sign of a thought-provoking artwork.