on daniel böhm


There is something inherently strange in the work of Daniel Böhm, something removed from our time, something timeless. These films suggest apparitions from the past, movies that look and feel like old movies. This is a compliment and not a critique, for as they unreel, the images make you realize that you are watching the history of cinema. By inserting itself into this artistic strategy, Böhm’s oeuvre creates an experience akin to a philogenetic reencounter with the essence of cinematography. Engaging with the collective side of human nature and rejecting the trivialities of momentary human drama, Böhm’s films create a universal narrative of plurisexual psychology acted out through dances of intimation by silent actors. 

Here no concession is made to formalist or aestheticist issues; everything in these films is consciously forced into narrative.  This narrative is not specific, but inserts itself into the development and awareness of the evolution of psychology as it took place in the 20th century.  The characters themselves are universal archetypes; they convey emotion and storyline through universal gestures and symbols.  They insinuate aggression, survival, confrontation, sexual and psychological exploration, but in the end they implicate the viewer in mutually transferential relationships.  Psychological awareness is not only related through the face and the body of the characters, but also by their position and movement in space (crawling on the floor, tapping the furniture, cradling an object).  Amazingly, this is almost always expressed in black-and-white photography with adept direction of the actors.  The photography, action, and choreography of Böhm’s characters create psychological landscapes of allegory, ones that simultaneously provide a place for metaphor that then may enrich the layers of meaning in the work.

Böhm's link to the classical avant-gardes of the history of cinematography - Resnais, Bergman, Antonioni - defines his unique position vis-à-vis the contemporary film scene, where swift actions and explicit narratives predominate. At the same time, he distances himself from today’s video artists who frequently overlap their works with video clips for television, advertising, and music.  Most of Böhm’s films lack text or dialogue, which reinforces the idea of filmmaking as a pure art, separate from theater or literature.  Partially refusing the postmodernist theory of the impossibility of master narrative, Böhm instead deals with the human condition through kinesthetic psychological stories.  While these films can be seen consecutively or separately, they are ultimately tied together by a system of relationships, a meta-narrative that can be divided into pieces and put back together, that can be dissolved and then restructured.  Here follows a principle of simultaneity, which I, for Argentineans, cannot but evoke Borges’ Aleph.  Likewise, in the work of Böhm, everything touches everything.

Osvaldo Romberg



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