Crackling Metacinema, Vanity And The Malaise Of Humanity: Fireplace For Your Home (2008)

There are a few times in your life when cinephiles discuss realizing they have viewed a piece of cinema that will invariably alter the entire way in which they understand cinema.  I recall moments like this occurring with, of course, Do The Right Thing, but more recently with works like Persona or Secret Sunshine.  These films, to varied degrees, not only ask questions about the role which cinema plays in our societal discourse on politics, religion, gender roles and variety of other heavily debated topics, but also reflect, through the medium of film, our own struggle as sentient beings trying to better understand our world and the reason for our being.  I know many who come to this through the existential woes of a Woody Allen film, while others find themselves mesmerized by the expressionism of Welles and Lang.  For most of my filmic endeavors, I was unaware of anything that managed to combine all the elements of cinema into one grandly poetic statement on human existence, while also providing a minimalist, yet cerebrally, focused examination of the minutiae of the daily grind.  At least this was the case, until I came across the wonderment and absolutely audacious experimental work Fireplace for your Home.  Without a solid director, one can only image the efforts and involvement playing into this work, whether it be the concern for domestic intimacy and the personal struggles of Japanese mastermind Ozu, or its concern for detailed everydayness of life, which emerge in the work of Akerman.  Yet, Fireplace for your Home, is far more than a domestic narrative and branches out to a larger, fully realized consideration of the politics of oppression and the passion of revolution, invoking, quite modestly, the work of Jean-Luc Godard.  Of course, not all the films references and homages are subtle, one can quickly see the "on the nose" references to fire, as it relates to classic Douglas Sirk melodramas, or more blatantly its decided leaning on the metaphor of flames and burnings that make David Lynch's Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me an essential cult classic.  What Fireplace for your Home does, as a piece of cinema, is manage to both set up the perfect creation of all things known to cinema, only to immediately burn them down and reject their creation.  I once thought that the closing scene of the star child from 2001: A Space Odyssey to be the most audacious statement of art in cinema, however, when the log in this film comes to a complete ashen incineration and falls apart, everything I understood about art, culture and the meaning of life also went up in flames.

The film begins in deceptive simplicity,  darkness, perhaps the beginning of time welcoming the viewer with silence, only to be followed by crackling and the emergence of a faint light, arising out of seeming nothingness.  The birth of the universe perhaps, an opening that beautifully references every creation myth known to humankind, while also taking a decidedly scientific and philosophical approach to the the emergence of life, suggesting it exploded into everythingness out of physical necessity.  Perhaps, explosion, is the best word to describe what occurs in the next act of the film.  With the three logs slowly being consumed by fire, the film moves into its next moment of historical narrative, undeniably drawing on the Roman and Greek pillars, slowly being consumed by the fire of modernity, a rejection of classicism, so bold and vindictive, as to cause viewers to viscerally reject everything they are shown.  Of course, once the film rejects history, it cannot retract such actions, therefore, its instantaneous transfer into the post-modern, metacinematic world of affect theory demands that the viewers not only ask what the images of the flames and logs represent, but, subsequently, what does their relationship to the logs and fire mean in regards to their daily lives, as well as their own reactions and affects as they synthesize the images being shown.  It is at this point in the narrative that Fireplace for your Home becomes a consideration of semiotics, symbols and languages that embraces, what can only be described as a deconstruction of ecriture feminine, suggesting that oppression extends to such a degree of intersectionality that to depict anything would be to inherently engage within a discourse of power and privilege.  The result of this narrative shift, of course, where the self/other dichotomy becomes discussed, yet, in the traditional sense, these two division are clearly delineated and identifiable, but as the fire begins to falter, one cannot help but think of the way the yin and yang are at once different and the same, so to is the fire by its final flickers of light.  When the image finally fades and the viewers have been taken on the whirlwind of emotional and interpersonal reflection, they cannot help but recall the famous Biblical lines "vanity of vanities; all is vanity," for what is left after such an experience, nothingness, coldness or perhaps enlightenment.

It is no coincidence that such a work of art ends with a decided incorporation of Biblical metaphors, because Fireplace for your Home is truly a work that could stand up against all the classic works of literature, including "The Greatest Story Ever Told,"  in a much briefer time frame, this film manages to consider the necessity and problems of religion, while also questioning the proclaimed "brevity" of a certain work of the history of time, written by the late Stephen Hawkings.  Fire, of course, seems to be a major factor in every major creation story, as noted earlier, yet Fireplace for you Home, in its moments of pure cinéma vérité, manages to remind its viewers that fire does play a role in our daily engagements, both physical, and, as should be no surprise, metaphysical.  It is in this entrenchment within the physical, however, that a person can read into its clear dueling ideologies concerning the aftermath of the Industrial Revolution.  Marx would become famous for his creation of an economic, and eventually political, theory revolving around property, power, and oppression of the working class, yet through the fire, revolution is put in the forefront of this film and questioned both as an image of political action, as well inquiring as to what role the "hearth" and the "home" played into moving the proletariat into action.  Although to call Fireplace for your Home a rejection of communist sympathies and suggest it to be an embracing of conservative values is quite unfair, after all, who is to say that these logs represent any degree of heteronormativity, or even suggest the tradition of family values, remember it is a fire destroying things and not building upon itself, or, in this case, tradition.  In its single, uncut shot, the entirety of the capitalist tradition is cast away, there is no conspicuous consumption, or individual endeavors for success and promise of reward for hard work.  Viewers only receive one certainty, in the end, all things burn, it is far more important that as a society we value moments of shared experience, and that we must, simultaneously, be aware that a shared experience is still quite individual.  The film questions how it could be possible that any two people would ever admire, loathe or even acknowledge the same flickering portion of a flame, or, that the flame is anything more than a meaningless experience towards an eventual, arbitrary death.

Key Scene:  Every second of this film matters and nothing should be approached as lesser or greater, to do so would be to betray the vision of this film, which for all intents and purposes, manifested itself without human production and involvement, at least the IMDB credits seem to suggest such a thing.

I would say that you should go out and watch this, however, as I hope you have come to realize, this is very much an April Fool's Joke.  However, I did actually watch this, what kind of blog post would it be if I did not really commit to the viewing.  It is actually kind of soothing and makes for an excellent background ambience for reading.

No comments:

Post a Comment