Robinson is clever in his approach, never allowing either strand that forms his remarkable short to take precedence over the other. One is the evangelical, surreal dreams of an impassioned “prophet”, who waxes rhapsodic on gold triangles and wide landscapes, and the other is formed of distorted, abstracted visions of ’80s pop stage performances. The former is set to footage of rapidly moving clouds, and the latter uses electronic versions of what may be the original music. Robinson sequences these in ebbs and flows, refusing to let his short succumb to pure euphoria, and while this might make for a slightly less pleasurable experience than expected, there is a genuine sense of wonder, especially as the two through-lines begin to dovetail. “Mad Ladders” is a wondrous, near-transcendent short that takes as its topic the quest for light, and supplies it in spades.
There is definitely a subtle rigor to Everson’s short, which acts as an elliptical, boundary-pushing documentary that nevertheless gets to and anchors in the heart of the subjects. His intent is not to deeply familiarize the viewer with his subjects, two black men in the Cleveland East Side who make money by stealing scrap metal from their neighborhoods, but to sketch their surroundings. He does so in less than seven minutes by adopting a two-pronged approach. The first is relatively objective, filming them as they quickly pull off their little heists. But the second is altogether more exciting, using quick montages of them in more relaxed and yet more heightened settings set to overdubbed conversations which clearly aren’t from the same scene and yet feel applicable to what is being shown. The narration/conversation does form a clearer picture of the men’s approach to their job and how they got there, but it also elides the specifics. “Fe26” is a work of documenting, but it is also a work of experimentation that provokes in exactly the right way.
Drljaca’s sole concern in the conception of Krivinia seems to be for a distancing effect. His atmosphere is bizarre, straddling the line between mystery and realism in a way that never truly settles into a satisfying balance. The narrative, about a man searching for his friend who has supposedly committed war crimes, is almost of no importance at all: the film frequently circles around to a car conversation which at the end is heavily implied to not even be a conversation, it focuses on a bus crash in a small village in Serbia, and much of the middle of the movie is taken up by the main character’s life in Toronto. The friend is never found, the suggestion of ghosts is made, and there are numerous echoes to previous scenes that don’t seem to hold any intrinsic meaning.
Therefore, the only truly interesting aspect is the filmmaking itself, which does compensate a great deal for the relatively inert nature of the other aspects. It isn’t necessarily experimental (only the inexplicable insertion of some color bars into a landscape shot is startling) but it is undeniably effective. Kirivinia avoids close-ups, preferring either the handheld tracking shot from behind that follows the main character through the landscape or medium-to-long shots that definitively emphasize the environment and the figure rather than the character. There is almost no interiority to his personality, and he is played largely as a blank slate, but it works to a certain extent, matching his fruitless and frequently digressive journey. Aside from an inexplicably ominous score, Kirivinia remains solid on a technical level, and engrossing enough as a whole, though it offers little in the way of narrative engagement.