Middle of the Moment

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Middle of the Moment
CH 1995 76'

Director: Nicolas Humbert, Werner Penzel
Script: Nicolas Humbert, Werner Penzel
Camera: Chilinski
Sound: Jean Vapeur
Editing:: Gisela Castronari, Nicolas Humbert, Werner Penzel
Music:: Fred Frith
Production:: Balzli & Fahrer GmbH

Nicolas Humbert, Werner Penzel 1995 76'

The essence of any experience, any moment, is to be found where people are in most intense contact with the place they occupy. And paradoxically, it is through a nomadic existence that one occupies a space the most intensely. Whether the nature of this nomadism is largely physical, as for the wandering tribes that travel the South Sahara and Cirque O - or rather abstract, as for the American philosopher and poet Robert Lax, is not so important. What the people portrayed in this documentary share is that their nomadic disposition, which strips life down to its bare essentials, makes them into complete centered human beings. They are not stuck in life's cycles but are co-existing with them, partaking in them with a freedom that is unknown to most of us.

Film makers Nicolas Humbert and Werner Penzel traveled through Europe and Africa with these very different nomads for around three years. Resisting the lure of nostalgia of any kind they have created a film form, a cinepoem as they call it, in which the freedom of the nomadic life resonates from each individual shot as well as from the film as a whole. Far from being a simple comparative study of nomadic lifestyles, middle of the moment is a nomadic adventure itself. It is lyrical in mood but goes beyond the merely admirable in its associations. It is not afraid to stay in one place, but also knows how to travel on to the next. The film makers have used their equipment and findings as imaginatively as the nomads they met use theirs, in their daily lives.

MIDDLE OF THE MOMENT becomes a journey into the most elementary cycles of life though it never pretends to witness their closure. Its framing rules out any generalization; what we see is appreciation of personality and detail. Fred Frith's music for the film wonderfully translates this sense of the constant movement of things. Far removed though we may be from an itinerant way of life, which forms a cycle in itself, we are still sensitive to the images that depict life in terms of its archetypal circles: sitting around the fire, life in a community, the sharing of food from one cup, the meeting of old acquaintances, the arena of the circus, the beginning of a life and the approaching end, which only reveals itself at a moment where one cannot speak about it anymore.

It would seem that the more sensitive we are, the further we can travel in MIDDLE OF THE MOMENT.

Life in mid-moment/ A poetic voyage on film

Film is a medium you can either watch or see. The difference is one of passive reception or active participation and, ultimately, between entertainment and art. MIDDLE OF THE MOMENT is an 80-minute argument for the power of participatory film. Made by filmmakers Nicolas Humbert and Werner Penzel, MIDDLE OF THE MOMENT offers no narrative and consequently no plot summary to detail here. From its first abstract moments of snow falling in headlightsneatly making a transition to sparks rising from a fire, the film is a meditation on relativity - of time, place and culture.

Humbert and Penzel have aspired to what they call a 'cinepoem' by following three kinds of nomads: a south Saharan tribe, the French troupe Cirque O and the American language poet Robert Lax. Cutting back and forth freely between these three subjects with no narration other than little snippets of conversation from the subjects, they weave a black-and-white world of acute observation.

This is a film seen from the inside out, jumping from such images as a circus performer spinning on a wire-framed disc to a family dismantling their yurt's wooden frame to Lax playfully singing the phrase, 'How will be will be'.

Randy Gragg, 'The Oregonian'