An Exercise in Remembering – Péter Lichter: Cassette

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Péter Lichter is one of the few active contemporary experimental filmmakers in Hungary. This short documentary, shot on super 8 was made in 2011, contains an original sound-record, which was made by the films authors (Péter Lichter, Lóránd Szécsényi-Nagy) during a class trip at primary school.

Enacting visually the magic workings of remembering has long been a pet theme in filmmaking. Iconic filmmakers like Alain Resnais or Károly Makk have been pre-occupied with recalling long-past events, and revealing minute and subtle linkages among them. Both Last Year in Marienbad and Love were films that had far transcended simple conventional flash-back procedures in their attempts to visually reproduce the essence of nostalgia.

Similarly, the pair of Péter Lichter and Lóránd Szécsényi Nagy has concocted some blurred, delusory images to match the voiceover of a cassette of taped music they had accidentally found. Their film of a mere ten minutes recalls the last of their high school excursions with comic reservation; grand lessons learnt for later life are mixed with gritty trifles. Kids balancing between childhood and adulthood are given over to a liberating sense of freedom from school duties, and they cannot avoid some of the mildly morbid temptations of adulthood either.

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Girls engage in some voyeurism, all drink up their mugs of beer amid swear-words – those were the three worst crimes of school-life in the 90s. Since then, the spread of cell-phones, hand-held cameras, tablets and notebooks has transformed not just school-excursions but also the way people remember them nowadays. No wonder then that the experiment of the two filmmakers evokes the Romantic mood of the first films made at the beginning of film as an art. In the melting pot of the digital 21st century all those high-resolution imaging gadgets tend to exorcise the essential obscurity of a complex reality which alone can leave space for some personal magic. What with the damaged images of the 8 mm shots of Cassette, we are given another chance to intervene with what we see on the basis of our particular experiences. We are given a chance to search, interpret, elaborate or just ponder.

After the well-lit platforms of Budapest’s East Railway Terminal we are transferred to the wooded landscape of a provincial village. Forest paths are surrounded not just by real birds and a lonely shepherd dog but also by the Surreal shadow of a stray elephant, a huge metal ball, or a person falling from a cliff. Little girls performing ballet are offset by the dance of cassettes, greenwoods alternate with cliffs, summer changes into winter.

Cassette is literally a film made out of garbage. Among the garbage put out into the streets, inevitably, one finds old cassettes of taped music with their expanded bands carrying hits recorded from radio shows or from friends’ cassette players. The pair of filmmakers has not only found those cassettes, but also a way in which to transmit the experience of finding and playing them. A feat that is part and parcel of the tasks that artists must undertake.

János Sugár defined making art as a good deed involving the transmission of ideas. Not a complex task, yet many artists prove too weak to perform it. The pair of filmmakers has managed to perform this good deed, a fact borne out by invitations to shows to be held in foreign cities like London, Zurich, Kuala Lumpur.

Written by: Dorottya Szalay

 

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