Tuesday, November 13, 2012

I'm thinking of a film I saw a couple of years ago: "Kuhle Wampe"or "Who Owns the World?"
The film opens with a mob of unemployed workers hunting for employment on bicycles, going from job to job only to find that every position is filled. One of the job seekers is a young man living in an apartment with his parents and sister. When he returns home, he walks through the courtyard of the building, where there is a small group of musicians, one of them is playing a beautiful sorrowful melody on a musical saw. He pauses to listen for a while. In this section of the film, the visual then seems to follow the audible: the melody carries us up the stairs of the building, through walls, through windows. There are no words, no dialogue. The camera then fixes upon the face of the young man, sitting at the dining room table. He has made a fateful decision. He takes his watch off and carefully sets it at the window ledge.
Aside from the obvious parallels with our current economic reality, this scene interests me because it represents the transition of an industrial implement to a musical instrument, an imaginative leap. The young man pauses to listen to the musicians, peeking into another realm, but cannot go there himself. I believe that the creative, imaginative transformation of the built (industrial) environment into something that might withstand (or even prevent) future climatic change is an activity that can provide social healing. Of course, there are those who just cannot see it, or as demonstrated by "Kuhle Wampe", hear it.