After a 27-year hiatus, Armenian filmmaker Artavazd Pelechian has returned with the documentary La Nature, premiering via Fondation Cartier. The film is essentially a 60-minute compilation of nature’s ferocity. It opens with a series of shots emphasizing its vast scope (mountain chains, vast dune seas, etc.), then progresses to an honestly terrifying parade of scenes of people at the mercy of various disasters (floods, earthquakes, even volcanic eruptions).
Pelechian’s style is characterized by “distance montage,” an in-your-face sensibility in which the action of the shots is often directed toward the viewer. He has also spoken about how he eschews deriving meaning from his individual shots, preferring instead to leave the meaning to a film as a whole. In some ways this defies the entire conventional idea of montage, which makes for a fascinating contrast. It certainly works here, emphasizing the sheer scale of the world against the people living on it, and how disaster is almost unfathomable in the face of our attempts to assign meaning to it.
La Nature is on view at Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain through March 7, 2021, alongside Pelechian’s 1975 film The Seasons.
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