The Best Films of the Decade: #10 02/19/2010
The first decade of our young century has come to a close. During that time the world around us has changed rapidly, and cinema has changed with it. Mainstream filmmaking continues to go down a dark path, moving ever closer to an event-style industry with no perception of "art". Meanwhile the cinema is ennobled all over the world by artists who reject or beat the studio system. As strong as ever, if you look in the right places, the art form thrives. For the next 10 days, I'll be counting down the 10 greatest films of the decade...
The Heart of the World
Directed by Guy Maddin
It may come as a shock to find that one of the entries on my decade list is just over 5 minutes long. But, alas, that is the case with Canadian auteur Guy Maddin's silent short, The Heart of the World. Containing all the energy of a high-tempo early 20th century Soviet film in a frantically paced 5 minute span, Maddin assaults the viewer with manic editing (an average of 2 shots per second) and a frenzied, somehow epic, narrative about the end of the world. It seems the world is to have a fatal heart attack, and tragic calculations determine there is no way to stop it. Meanwhile two brothers fight for the love of one woman. Of course, there is hope within the story, and the source of this hope is the message "KINO". Religion and industry fall short but Kino (the German word for cinema) comes through. Maddin reminds us that the heart of the world has nothing to do with calculations, and indeed lies within our art. When everything else falls through, our cinema can revive us, for within our art hide the answers to some of our greatest questions.
The film is most likely my most-watched of the decade (I find it difficult to go too long without seeing it), and not only for reasons of length but also for the exhilaration it provides me. The Heart of the World is a one-of-a-kind experience that never seems to wane no matter how many times I return to it. I was even blessed with the chance to see it on 35mm at the local cinematheque, which drastically heightened the profundity of this masterpiece. In its brief running time it feels as though it breathes a thousand times, containing with each inhale all the history of cinema's past and with each exhale an unremitting hope for its future.