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The film bears witness to German artist Anselm Kiefer's alchemical creative processes and renders in film, as a cinematic journey, the personal universe he has built at his hill-studio estate in the South of France. Written by
The film begins with a long exploration like "The Zone" from Tarkovsky's Stalker: bushes glimpsed derelict tunnels, shelves of books made of lead with rocks on them, more leaden books with fragments of glass in and around them, light from overhead windows shines on rubble and dust- filled corridors. Music by Ligoti accompanies it. After some time- more than ten minutes at a guess- the first human appears, charring sets of- paper- books in a furnace. He is one of Anselm Kiefer's assistants at this strange studio or workshop- a derelict silk factory, where Kiefer adds deliberate ruins to the accidental ones. We see Kiefer's working methods- both aleatoric and industrial in their own way- enormous paintings- of tree trunks on glass, of a man or corpse on his back- a strange self-portrait, perhaps- the only painting we see not exclusively involving black, white and grey- and watch his working methods- glue and then a powder- dust or paint- is scattered on a painting on the ground and a crane slowly hoists the painting up to display it while much of the powder falls off; a strange sculpture of a deformed ship is stuck to a seascape, hiding the artist's palette which was there before.
Next there is an interview with Kiefer in the library. We never see what any of the books in the library are and Kiefer does not refer to any other artists, only to the bible and the Kabbalist Solomon Luria and the Rosicrucian Robert Fludd. Nor do we learn more of Kiefer- are the children who appear in the library his children, his grandchildren or someone else's? We never learn how his extraordinary work is paid for either. At one point the interviewer says that nothing is written on the blank pages of the lead books- no, says Kiefer, everything is written there. At no time is there a discussion of the quality of Kiefer's art or the history and influences behind it. Its value is taken as a given.
In the second half we see how the sculptures are made and someone excavates an underground amphitheatre, for an unknown end. Kiefer and his assistants pour molten lead down a mound of earth, help the lead form a cascade and melt a leaden book at the bottom- it seems important that the book be melted, rather than raw lead be used. They pay no attention to health or safety regulations, never wearing protective masks or clothing, no matter how potentially lethal the material they work with. Finally, they put up artificial ruins, already fragmentary walls of concrete that rest on the leaden books and make brittle piles in the sky, haunts for Lilith the she-demon, Kiefer says. He announces, casually, that he is going to a new studio in Paris; over a hundred lorries have already moved things, and this studio will be abandoned, a painting or sculpture left in each building to decay with the building. The film ends with another survey accompanied by Ligoti's music, this time of the ruins in air waiting to decay and fall as if Ozymandias had designed his statue as a ruin.
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