Connection – Milan Balog: 1.35

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Sensitively selected moving photo(copie)s are the base of the narrative and technical structure of Milan Balog’s 1.35. The award-winning (Oberhausen) short is one of the gems of the contemporary European experimental film scene, and serves as a remarkable example of the intermedial film trend.

1.35 achieves more than just connecting different contemporary art forms; it brings down eras, countries and technologies to a common denominator. It at once reclines upon the expressivity of the late kino-mechanics[1] and exploits the movements of machines performing the reproduction of images. It emphasizes the collectivity of film as an art from, while also agitating for the abstraction of the individual. It distinctly separates the dimensions of then and now but without denying the cultural continuity.

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„Non-fiction film about fiction love” – so summarizes Balog his 2003 short film. The main character of 1.35 is a Czechoslovak refugee who left his home country because of the Soviet occupation during the 60s. He leaves the woman behind to whom he refers to as the love of his life. Thirty years later he tries to go back, but traveling is impossible because of his rapidly failing health. The man is dying. He is about to perform his second big emigration – this time to another reality: the after-life. But now he does not want to do it alone. In order to build a relative connection with his beloved he makes photocopies of objects important in his life, which the woman – as pieces of a puzzle – uses to create her own image of her lost lover.

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Balog’s images are brief and simple, but this solid purity makes them so personal. The intimate copies reach their fulfillment by eclectic technical construction and receive new meaning by formal experiments. 1.35 is more a series of projected movements than a storytelling movie. The main principle of composition is polarity and the multiplication of the experience was given priority. Although proportion, rhythm, intensity and analogy regularize the dramaturgy, they do not serve it, but rather work on utilizing the language of form.

Balog bridges the geographical segregation with technical synthesis; continuously supporting his main character who, for the sake of creating a connection with his love, converts 3D objects into 2D images. The action of the copy machine is one of the most striking audiovisual elements of 1.35. The starting creation story – colored by several pop-cultural references, the recordings of the surveillance camera showing the act of copying and the ending cast all invoke the typical monotone movement of the machine. On the level of sound the unmistakable hum of the photocopier appears in different forms: the snuffle of the pump of the blood pressure gauge, the click of the fluorescent lamp and the bouncing sound of a tennis ball call back to the same sound effect.

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The tight story-line of 1.35 plays constant give and take with the visual and audio registers, as a result there is not a single redundant second in the film. The Beatles photo, the Rio Mare fish can, the Marlboro cigarettes, the flattened beer caps are as relevant as the statue of Christ or the guitar. Neither the simplified creation story which ends with a humorous intermezzo, nor the constant narration are more important than the lyrics of integrated song „Not To Touch The Earth” by The Doors. The essence of Balog’s film is the emotional charge triggered by the rhythm of the juxtaposed elements. The construction of creative repetitions in form and the continuity of the movements in different situations are the most conspicuous marks of the director’s vision.

Balog’s 1.35 is an experimental résumé, which makes it an unavoidable point of reference concerning the discourse analyzing the philosophy and aesthetics of the contemporary experimental film. 1.35 proves that even after the millennium Central-Eastern-European avant-garde does exist – one just has to look for it.

Written by: Dorottya Szalay

[1] The expression is from Pál Acél.
Acél Pál: : Collective movement. Kino-mechanics  In: Peternák Miklós (ed.): F.I.L.M. The History of the Hungarian Avant-garde Film, Fine Art Publishing, Budapest, 1991, p.59.

To watch the film click on the picture.
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