A lot of time and effort has been put into making cinema a more visceral, more immersive experience, whether through 3D and IMAX. Art collective 85A’s Chernozem: Kino goes way beyond that – although, technically it’s silent and black and white – by expanding the nature of cinema itself, going back to its roots in the cinema of attractions from the side show and the carny.
The film itself is, as mentioned, silent and monochrome, in the grand German expressionist style, shot on antique video cameras, most of which died during the shooting. This is a film, however, where the nature of the viewing experience is as important as the film itself.
Spectators are welcomed into the cavernous expanse of the Glue Factory, a disused warehouse in one of Glasgow’s less salubrious districts, put into booths and programmed with a story and characters, like at the beginning of a video game. This is all something of a red herring though, as soon you will have forgotten the complex storyline (something about a man with a factory for a head, and an Industrial God) and bizarre characters as you’re lurched into their world, chased, threatened and forced to enjoy yourself by eating popcorn, amongst other things.
To give away any more would be unfair, as this is a supreme exercise in sensory and spatial dislocation. It’s utterly thrilling, and feels completely new, in a way that cinema very rarely feels like anymore, something like being on the Pirates of the Caribbean ride, but in a Guy Maddin film. Although Chernozem posseses it’s own unique steampunk vision. The program lists it as 45 minutes. When I came out of it, I felt as if had lasted 15 minutes. However long you feel it lasts, whatever you think that you have seen, you won’t feel shortchanged.
Words by Brian Beadie