Created while Viola was artist-in-residence at Sony in Japan, Hatsu-Yume is, in its own way, thrilling. The static soundtrack, resembling the sound of a distant sea, sustains a dream-like sensation through the film, and allows the boundaries between sight and sound to disappear. When a coin being fed into a vending machine doesn’t clink, it feels as if this action is happening in a world beyond our control. Viola’s exploration of Japan and careful editing display a strong understanding of mono no aware, the Japanese philosophy of the transience of being. Though it should be watched as a projection, this meditative film is inviting enough that it could essentially be watched anywhere.
Wednesday, 24 February 2010
Taking its title and cue from the Japanese belief that the first dream of a new year is premonitory, Bill Viola’s masterwork Hatsu-Yume shows the passing of a day over the course of an hour. Playing with video speed, dubbing and lighting, Viola choreographs what must have been a considerable library of footage into a wordless statement about life, inviting the viewer to absorb the tranquil beauty of time passing by. Opening with a dark shot of the tide, the film travels across Japan, taking in sights of land, water, sky and urban space. Details leap out where they wouldn’t have before - the filthy corner of a polystyrene crate, the subdermal iridescence of an octopus, raindrops on a windshield. No overwhelming link is made between sequences, save for the progression of light and the theme of mortality.