Jem Cohen’s Counting is a documentary delving into seemingly mundane yet entirely human lives in urban areas. Cohen expertly combines cinematography with music and voice-overs to produce this mesmerising piece of art.
Taking us through some of the world’s main metropolises, Cohen transmits the beauty of the everyday. Separated into 15 chapters, the focus of life is very much placed on the people living in these cities (New York, Moscow, St Petersburg, Istanbul) and how we are all connected by the way we lead our lives. The camera captures perfectly the very essence of many of our existences, with beautiful shots emphasising life in motion. The presence of animals, especially cats, is dominant in the film, giving the project a sense of completion as it acknowledges the different realities that can exist in a single place. Essentially, Counting encapsulates the transient experience of life itself, capturing snapshots of fleeting moments, like dappled sunlight through leaves on a tree or snow-covered gravestones.
Cohen continues to depict urban landscapes throughout, coherently demonstrating the beauty that lies not only in nature but also in the human meaning that we have given to the world: to buildings, technology, politics, all of which affect our daily lives. Cohen manages to bring their significance to the fore. The film becomes a vanitas, distilling the fragility of life while encouraging one to embrace the wonders of the mundane.
Ultimately, Counting is more than a film. It gradually transforms into a piece of art that imprints itself on the viewer long after it has finished, images and sounds subtly melding into each other to create a tapestry of experiences. But its slow pace and lack of narrative make it unsuitable viewing for those with little patience to decipher what exactly it is they are looking at.
Counting does not yet have a UK release date.
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