You’re in the middle of a swaying crowd, you’re dancing and all around you, strangers are dancing too and this human mass is obeying incomprehensible fluid mechanics. It’s pretty hot, though; everyone’s sweating and the music’s really loud and we’re all having a laugh and a drink or two… Or you’re just sitting very close to a friend or a stranger and you’re not afraid of them, not afraid of being so close to their body, in fact you’re not even thinking about it – perhaps you’re thinking about something completely different, maybe even about the downfall of tyrants, for example, or the ousting of a despot, about overthrowing the entire capitalist system.
Those were good times, and they’ll be back…
We were locked down and locked up, and now we’ve been unlocked. But it’s left an intricate scar that will take time to fade: a kind of fear of getting together. There’s the fear of the police, of course, which is deeply rooted in us at the moment, but also the fear of contact, of other people as a potential danger.
How should we kiss? The question is far from anodyne – it concerns the very nature of our relationships with others in society, it concerns what we all really are, deep down. Few people live without any human contact at all – hermits are rare (and mad). Keeping others at a distance is violent. A baby who’s not cuddled can die. We need to get closer, at least, even if we don’t touch, whether we’re Latin or Scandinavian… Not being able to pass by at less than a metre in the street leaves a gaping hole in our lives.
The second thing missing from our lives is being part of a group. Coming together with a lot of people, doing something – celebrating, playing music, dancing, demonstrating… Social distancing has taken this away from us. It’s a violent weapon against group power, against revolt, celebration, rioting, and struggle. We have to fight this impotence. We have to reequip ourselves. We have to find each other again so as to be balanced and standing tall. “Together we are many!” says the banner. It doesn’t mean anything… but then again, maybe it does.
We wanted films that go down into the streets and weave their way through the crowd… and express our need for others, and the force of coming together, harmonious, seditious, in love, at carnivals…
A festive atmosphere? Fine, but don’t get too carried away. Celebrations can be dangerous and quickly get out of hand if they’re not properly organised. And the powers that be know how to turn a “celebration” (accepted, supervised, with prior warning) into a (threatening) “mob”. Our fun is strictly controlled. And sometimes even a means of control. It’s the particularity of carnivals. And it’s true of Dunkirk in La Fête : with the help of exuberant fancy dress, bawdy singing and alcohol, it’s “anything goes” for a whole month, and it even has its own charter. At the carnival, everyone’s here to have fun. At the carnival, no-one comes to make trouble (…) Whatever people say, the carnival has rules and they’re there to be respected, if you want the carnival to go well, keep a grip on yourself, kid!
It’s a way of letting off steam, lifting the lid, a dramatisation of power relations. Everything is turned upside down – but only for a while, and the black people of Carnaval Nouvelle-Orléans know all too well that tomorrow, they’ll no longer be kings, that once again they’ll just be black people living in Louisiana in 1965…
In a recent interview entretien récent, for the easing of lockdown, the science fiction author Alain Damasio wanted “a real Feast of Fools, like in the Middle Ages, that overthrows our ‘kings of bling’”. But maybe – and that’s the point – a carnival doesn’t actually overthrow anything.
Order is never far away when we try and gather together as a group. In Nice Time, what people are mostly looking for is love in its diverse forms and not always requited love as demanded by Anteros, who looks down over Piccadilly Circus. But here, it’s not a god in control but a very heavy police presence, watching and keeping surveillance… Also under surveillance are the streets of Berlin in Shooting Stars. First, by the camera, overlooking from a distance, but also, again, by the police, who intervene this time. Admittedly, here, gathering together does look suspiciously like a riot: we blow stuff up, there’s a lot of smoke, no-one’s having much of a laugh… but we’re performing the ritual together, and that’s what counts.
We’re all trying – we’re all trying to come out and be with other people. There’s something solitary about Retour à l’inouï a– but something submerged in the crowd and the noise. This is a film that evokes both solitude and the need to mingle, to bathe in being with our fellow people, to relish their presence, even with our eyes closed, even without talking, but to the same beat, the same sound, the same project: to share an escape from the world, to share the trance.
What’s it like when we’re in harmony? When, rather than aiming for joyful chaos, we work together to construct unity?Brilliantly, L’Harmonie gives shape to the way people come together – in this instance, to make music. This is Pontarlier’s local orchestra, and it offers a very moving portrait of a community with its moments of grace, its diverse solitudes and its welcomed dissonance.
We’re not seeking perfect unison, we’re trying to play together, with, if possible, a few wrong notes.
Tënk's Artistic Director
Tënk's Editorial and programming Director