THE RUINS OF BYZANTIUM
experimental feature film
I RESTI DI BISANZIO
directed by: Carlo Michele Schirinzi.
“A senseless journey,
an urgency for emptiness
– fuelled by iconoclastic byzantine fervour –
(in the characters’ history and geography),
a cyclical return
wandering among scenes and images like losing oneself
in Otranto’s trodden upon mosaic pieces”
Carlo Michele Schirinzi
The awareness of the illusory strength of religious images and the subsequent iconoclastic rage hurled against them in ancient Byzantium, are the premises to everything. The monks who fled from that fury landed in these lands, they dug hermitages and painted icons creating a very intimate holy dimension: private madonnas ready to satisfy every necessity of theirs.
Iconoclasm is a ferocious fight against everything that’s appearance, deceit, mirage, in other words, against everything that rhymes with falsehood.
A land condemned to minor telluric displacements, to invented wars, useless fortifications, futile landings, fake cultural blunders: the film is an intimate portrait of the Lower Salento, dedicated to those who are shipwrecked within their own lives.
There’s no plot, only actions. History has already happened and the main character has been left out, he is unwittingly excluded, we don’t know whether to his detriment or his good fortune (the latest historical act took place in the early 90s, when the Adriatic sea vomited the great Albanian landing, the same Adriatic that five hundred years before had led the Ottomans to human iconoclasm in Otranto).
The main character – a timeless hermit, both possessor and possessed – inhales the oxygen that incendiary images alone can provide him: he’s an impotent, visionary arsonist…unable to create, he destroys with his eyes and his mind.
The film wants to portray this land’s absence of identity. Nowadays, they are trying to fill this void with the useless, damaging efforts at creating an identity, paying no heed to the pitiless now that rolls quickly along, leaving us prey to fugitive time, foreigners in our own home: exhausted by the daily garbage, we don’t care for the real drama that flows like a crazed river through the limestone, beneath this land of century-old olive trees.
Clashing with drama doesn’t mean narrating it: it’s a continuous, gruelling battle that gives no quarter because it’s waged against every kind of history, against the will of establishing one single direction at any cost, of channelling everything on the tracks of a one-way comprehension. The film doesn’t want to be consolatory or anti-consolatory but to document a chaos of affections, a sentimental implosion capable of trouncing on the contemporary using its very weapons: you can’t narrate life, you live through it, sometimes directionless, because reality doesn’t belong to History – memories are images – History gets attached to it later, when the fire has given way to ashes.
If reality is incendiary, you must capture it with fire, with an image well soaked in the drama of centuries.
…closing your eyes, not listening to any words: sometimes this can be a right, a right to criticize the galloping globalisation, the catastrophic attempts at homogenization and the even more serious needs for new identities.