Visual Training (Frans Zwartjes, 1969, Netherlands)

Visual Training is a 1969 black-and-white short film by Dutch director Frans Zwartjes. Zwartjes is best known for his collection of experimental films that he began making in the late 1960s. Before this, Zwartjes was a musician and violin maker. Visual Training opens with an image of a man and woman seemingly mid-embrace, although their death-like makeup indicates that all is not right here. A brief credit appears, and then we cut to an image of a man with Gothic-style makeup (before such a thing existed), staring at the camera. This transitions to him preparing a meal, again gazing at the camera as he takes a bite.

A woman appears next to him, with an equally disturbing face. He begins to cover her naked body with flour, and we see that she is blindfolded. Another woman walks over and applies a bib to the man. Meanwhile, the floured woman has now crawled onto the table, and it seems that the man is eating her. Along with the new woman, the man covers her in various food, as if preparing her for a meal. The "preparation" of the woman's body continues, while the other woman washes our main character's hair. 

As the ritual continues, it becomes clear that the film is some kind of metaphor related to the role of women in society, as well as the nature of domesticity. The imagery in the film is dark, with the corpse paint making the film feel as fresh as if it were made a couple of years ago. One can feel some influence of the Viennese actionists, but the film's almost gothic sensibility feels far ahead of its time. We are looking forward to exploring more of Frans Zwartjes, as he was a strange visionary with a very avant-garde visual and aesthetic sense. 



Popular Posts