Bedsitters (Frans Zwartjes, 1974, Netherlands)

Bedsitters is a 1973 short film by Frans Zwartjes. Shot in black and white, the film opens with a man and woman in a stairwell. As with many of Zwartjes' short films, sometimes it is hard to make out what is going on initially. A hand glides through the stairwell, opening a door. A woman appears in a bathroom. Light flickers in and out, while a man with dark sunglasses looks up and down. The off-kilter camera at work sets an immediate sense of disorientation, turning Zwartjes' own house into a menacing and J.G. Ballardian setting. 

Watching more of Zwartjes' works, one can appreciate the economy with which he operates. Using a small cast of common collaborators (much like Warhol's crew), and only pre-existing locations, he can create films that evoke a true sense of menace and unease. This is accentuated in Bedsitters by the droning and disorienting soundtrack. In contrast to Living, which is at least on the surface more self-explanatory, Bedsitters is much more avant-garde and hard to decipher. The film could best be described as a chaotic - world in which neither we nor the characters know what is going on. 

In contrast to Zwartjes' earlier shorts, this piece from the mid-70s displays a more confident use of space. While Zwartjes' earlier work was no stranger to strange angles and points of view, Bedsitters seems to be an exercise in creating the most unnerving and off-kilter views possible of domestic space. The result renders what should be familiar unfamiliar and alien. As with Zwartjes' other works, there is a sexual undercurrent that runs through the film. There is something voyeuristic about our central male character with his seeming disguise, wandering through the stairwell, as a woman appears in some of the rooms throughout the film. Bedsitters is a unique expression.



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