© Liechti Filmproduktion

Das Summen der Insekten – Bericht einer Mumie (The Sound of Insects: Record of a Mummy)
Switzerland 2008

Opening 6 May 2010

Directed by: Peter Liechti
Writing credits: Peter Liechti, Masahiko Shimada

This is not a “movie,” but an amazing and captivating piece of art. Narration is set to images, music and sounds. In its core it is closer to Performance Art than to film, but is even different yet. In Performance Art, the artist is the medium; the action being watched or documented is the artwork. In this piece we never get to see the medium. We don’t watch but still witness “the action,” and this long after it has been taken to its absolute extreme: to death.

The work is based on a novel about the actual diary of a middle-aged man, who withdraws to a remote part of a forest to commit suicide by starvation. About a year after his death, a hunter found his mummified body and his diary. It gives account of his last sixty days, starting with his preparation, and ending when death is imminent. He never was identified. The gentle voice reciting the entries is neither sad nor happy, nor dramatic or apprehensive. It is accepting; no judgment is passed, just a slight irony at times. He describes the changes to his body and his pains, as he strives to reduce his earthly remains to an absolute minimum (Giacometti’s sculptures comes to mind). Except for nourishment, he is taking good care of his body and appearance, as to maintain his dignity. He shares his thoughts, dreams and /or visions. “Aloud” he wonders only once, what might happen if he were found still alive. Whether that would that be a sign that he was meant to live? Did he choose this long drawn-out death because it still left a chance to abort the plan? Did he document this profound experience step by step to aid his memory when it might fail? He did not expect to be missed by anyone, but was the diary his last, if too late, attempt to make a connection, and to let someone, if no one in particular, share in his experience? In proportion to his body diminishing, the diary is gaining volume, taking up space, as if to fill the void.

The only detail we learn about his life is that he had come across this isolated forest when he was a student. Already then did he decide that this was a good place to die. It is not a spectacular landscape, but it is welcoming. It feels like the right place and therein lies its beauty. The images – not gorgeous, but strangely spellbinding, often hyper-realistic – are paired with classical music, experimental music and sounds. To my amazement they formed thoughts in my mind that only seconds later would be read back to me by the narrator. Watching this film is a solitary experience. I highly recommend taking the opportunity. Based on the novel Miira ni naru made by Masahiko Shimada according to a true story. Directed by Peter Liechti. (Carola A)

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