The Illinois Parables
10th October 2016 9.00pm at BFI Southbank
The Illinois Parables is a visual essay that falls foul of placing concept before content, presenting a set of 11 Midwestern parables which explore the “regional vignettes about faith, force, technology and exodus”. Following Illinois’s Native American history of displacement and repression whilst touching on the spiritual element of America’s indigenous people, Deborah Stratman’s experimental endeavour pairs minimalist imagery and allegory.
Sadly however, this picture fails to evoke much emotion from the viewer. The images are often unclear and overdone, taking over the screen for prolonged periods of time without comment. It seems as though Stratman is aiming for a bleak sense of space through her use of shots, and many are visually impressive with a crackly charm that depict Illinois’s wide open plains and rivers looking beautiful in the snow. But the timing is misplaced, and much of the editing awkward and clunky. When the images move at a faster pace the accompanying gong bombards the watcher, but instead of presenting an anxiety in keeping with the history and frustrated tone, it is simply annoying.
There is virtually no dialogue; the narrative is loose and ideological. Instead there are quotes aptly chosen to fit the sparse atmosphere, but vast amounts of the short feature pass with little or no talking. Relying instead upon the visuals is a bold move, but makes the film blur without purpose. However there is a richness to the bare music, filling the spaces between the historical quotes as the highlight of the picture. The instrumentation and melodies are kept to a minimum without becoming bland, just as this piece aspires to be.
The Illinois Parables chooses an intriguing state with interesting focus and the brave intention of seeking to utilise the image as a powerful tool to “explore how we’re shaped by conviction and ideology”. But the fantastic archive footage becomes lost amidst mistimed and poorly edited shots, minimal usage of history and unemotional silences, making it ultimately unimpressive.
The Illinois Parables does not have a UK release date yet.
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