• Impossible Encounters

    Melancholia embodies a form of impossible connection. - George Baker

    The works of Ibro Hasanović are revealed to us as places of “impossible encounters” that embody connections with the past. (1) They have a specific relationship with the past, where romanticised narratives and elements of nostalgia coexist. In the same way that nostalgia emanates from physical and temporal distance from the object of desire, the films of Ibro Hasanović represent places where memory, time, the past, interpretation and imagination meet. The image of nostalgia, as Svetlana Boym points out, is an image of double exposure – a collision of the past and the present, illusion and reality. (2)
    The works by Ibro Hasanović are a meeting place of different references, narratives and texts from the fields of film, art, literature, and like Tarkovsky, Godard, Sidran or Caspar David Friedrich. The images and stories that are evoked in his films are immersive and poetic, with special attention paid to the shaping of the soundscape, where the moulding of the sound plays an important role in the creation of the experience, the atmosphere and the layers of meaning. By the use of visual codes and the language of film, Ibro Hasanović explores the complex relations of individuals and society.
    The landscape in A Short Story, is metonymically representing a space where territory and destiny have been intertwined for centuries, the (constructed) iceberg in Piccolo Greenland, and the (real) ship ‘Galeb’ in Spectre, all represent almost mythical places, which the author uses not only to mediate information about the space or the event, but also to insinuate at a certain situation or emotion. The meaning of these places is deeply rooted in our collective memory, and they become topoi of artistic interest, of describing the indescribable, of articulating visual language as a transfer between the subconscious and images, while the moving pictures draw us into an associative space of relations between reality and fiction.

    In A Short Story, the narrator retells a string of events that took place in the recent past, and some premonitions about the future, which are mediated by way of oral narration. Here, the narration of the past is intermingled with indications of future events, as the form acquires an uncertain position on the narrator’s reliability, so that the unclear narratives are placed between the past and the future. The paradigm of oral narratives – oral history, oscillates on the edges between fiction and reality, documents, truth and falsehood, history and narrative.
    The act of narration and the narrator’s monologue represent a frame of reference and the centrepiece for forming the narration of the work. The cyclical repetition of the mythicised elements reveals the models that participate in the formation, maintenance and regulation of the social and natural order; codes which are inscribed in our collective memory.
    The opening frames are of a mountainous landscape, an almost pastoral image of grassy meadows situated between the somewhat ominous mountain tops. The frame outlines the static scene of the landscape. As Simon Schama points out in Landscape and Memory, “scenery is built up as much from strata of memory as from layers of rock”, opening a range of questions about the interrelationship of nature and history. The landscape as an artistic construction, representation, genre of pictures, is a product of western culture and allows for mediation of the relationship between man and nature, in the same way that it represents the models of man’s conceptualisation of nature, in order to reflect different moods and complex relations, thus becoming a place for questioning the interrelationship of space, history, memory or identity.
    The next scene is framed by an angled, awry frame. Such frame represent a result of the author’s subjectivity and self-awareness of having disturbed the idyllic landscape with his intervention, and represents the author’s (director’s) comment as a hint at the narrative frame, future events, undefined fears, feelings of discomfort, premonitions of ignominious effects, instability, and uncertainty in the story and imagery. This almost literal “awry look” is opposed to the usual image, while the narrative content and the film’s expressiveness participate equally in the construction of the meaning of the work. While the narrator carries out his storytelling, the retelling of the story, the movement of the camera reveals that his figure is not alone in the landscape. We gradually discover who he is talking to, and that he is in fact standing in front of an audience of children, resembling a class sitting on the grass, listening to the narrator with attention and wonder.

    In Piccolo Greenland, we once again come across the relation of man and nature, where the poetic scenes of the cold icy and romantically spirited landscape represent a frame for individual struggle and engagement, aimed at achieving a certain goal. In this binary pair of nature and culture we discover a melancholic image. The protagonist is a lone individual who uses all his energy against the power of nature. In the film the sense of fantasy is mingled with reality, solid borders melt away, while the natural and the artificial coexist in miraculous harmony, because this image of the north, cold and ice, which exist as an artificial landscape constructed in the studio, is a representation of an imagined state territory that is being established by way of conquest. Through the interaction of the different elements, the set design and the mise-en-scene, Ibro Hasanović reveals the “political potential of the poetic”.

    Spectre is the only film lacking a human presence. The camera moves inside the hull of war ship ‘Galeb’, anchored in Rijeka harbour, while the work itself was created during the author’s stay in Rijeka. Ships are places of interesting histories, both known and unknown, visible and invisible, and of mysterious auras. The “ghosts” of ‘Galeb’, as spectres of the system, occupy the vacant social and ideological place as their referential field, while glimpses are shown of the true destiny of the ship, which is to become a commodified tourist attraction.
    Optically unconscious, the camera moves through “interior landscapes”, the deserted, empty remains of a glorious history, progress, journeys, representations of modernism, enclosed spaces, spaces of fiction, evoking the tradition and concept of the cabinet of miracles as remnants of the “theatre of memory”, exploring and reflecting different positions and manners of structuring the meaning of space, which displace and transform the common understanding, evoking different feelings, insecurities, disorientations, transience. It is as if the film slides through the representation of genres, the cinematography of the 20th century, representing the joining of culture and cinematographic structure. The psychological and symbolic qualities of his architecture, just like the interrelations of the constructed ambience, material, real and artificial space, become places for creating meaning.
    The disintegration of fixed understanding points to the complex relations between constructed space and subjectivity, as well as questions that bring us places whose meaning is articulated in the gap between the past and the present, while allowing for a special perception of space and reality, as well as the relation towards the perception of space and time, approximating to Bachelard’s term “poetic space”, as the space of imagination that contains compressed time and serves the compression of time. In Spectre, it is about the space – the ship, the story or the film, where, as Georges Perec said, “we inexplicably feel the cracks, gapes, points of friction; at times we have the vague impression that in certain places space falters, shoots or crashes...(3)

    Regardless of whether we have had a direct encounter with the past, which is formed on the basis of memory or forms of mediated memory, narration, films, photographs, the attitude towards the past is renewed and reshaped in the present. In this way the societal, collective “remembering of the past” is not only the fruit of confirmed facts or direct experience, but also represents a narrative as a construction, subject to individual reinterpretations. By establishing contact with the past, using images and the tools of memory, the author can attempt to define the time we live in, articulating recognisable feelings through the clarity of the visual language. The works of Ibro Hasanović represent spaces whose meaning is articulated in the gap between the past, present and future. In them, Ibro Hasanović often refers to Tarkovsky, the filmmaker of nostalgia and condensed time, in whose films time is slowed down in order to conserve memory through a “reflexive journey towards the inner world”. The models of representation of certain places are created on the basis of different fragments – layers of the immediate surroundings, elements of everyday life, myths, stories, parts of history, culture and society that build and shape the process of opinion and perception, corresponding to the socio-political or historical context of the place where they were brought to fruition, while at the same time representing a reflection of internal states, experiences, history or stories.

    Branka Benčić
    Zagreb, April 2013.

    Translation: Igor Stefanovski

    1. Hal Foster: The Return of the Real, October Books/MIT Press, 1996
    2. Svetlana Boym: The Future of Nostalgia, Basic Books, 2001
    3. Georges Perec: Vrste prostora, Meandar, Zagreb, 2005