No stranger to experimental cinema, Eija-Liisa Ahtila has recently had installations at the MoMA and Tate Modern. Now she releases her newest project, “Where is Where?,” a quad-screen look at the nature of God and man in the absurd times of war.
At least that’s what I think it’s about. The nature of modernist pieces like this is one of mystery and subjectivity. “Where is Where?” spoke to me primarily about human nature’s turn to absurd reasoning when death is so close at hand. However, the film had images involving the relationship between mother and child and the role of the church and art in war. What is so nice about experimental art is that all of these themes seem to burst wide open, inviting as many interpretations as there are individual images (and with a screen split up like a four-way game of Mario Kart that’s a lot of images!). Each detail – like the fact that the poet featured organizes her books by spine color – becomes vastly important when a hunt for meaning seems so desperate.
Essentially, the very loose plot of the film centers around two Algerian boys who kill their friend because he is European. The film details one possible explanation for this horrific act by dramatizing a European raid in a small Algerian town where one of the young killers has family.
Like a moving cubist painting, “Where is Where?” is created to confuse, and yet inspire. With the combination of silent stock footage, and sparse theatrical settings the film may seem very long to some, even if it is only an hour. Making it to the end, however, is very rewarding if you are willing to put in the effort.