Dutch artist Guido van der Werve makes the kind of films Caspar David Friedrich might have dreamt up if he had had a sense of humour and access to a camera. Saturated in an atmosphere of melancholy, loss and loneliness, preoccupied with dead composers and centuries-old dance forms, yet fired by a love of both the piano and slapstick, Van der Werve’s beautifully shot vignettes include: the hapless artist narrating the history of Steinway pianos while sitting mournfully on a piano stool; trudging slowly before an icebreaker in the Gulf of Finland; standing for 24 hours at the geographic North Pole, refusing to turn with the world, surrounded by stately dancing ballerinas after being knocked down by a car on a depressing suburban street; and meditating on meteorites while building a space rocket in his living-room. The films are usually accompanied by Romantic piano music played by Van der Werve, who trained as a classical musician. Frédéric Chopin is his favourite composer (because ‘his music often sounds very simple, and I think you have to reach a really high level of understanding in order to be able to do that’), although he is also fond of Sergei Rachmaninov, Sergei Prokofiev and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Recently he has begun writing his own lush scores. Happily, despite skating close to pathos, Van der Werve’s films never quite fall into it. A crescendo of melancholy can abruptly shift key and tone and segue into a light-hearted mood of absurdity at the least predictable of moments.
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