Paulína Mačáková’s 2008 work could easily be labeled as a “documentary” of avant-garde film history. Random Thought gently connects several experimental film trends, both emphasizing the continuity between them and proving their influence on the Eastern-Central-European avant-garde film scene.
Mačáková’s piece is an East-West gateway, which celebrates the never ending correspondence between different cultures, eras and styles. It does not copy, it recycles and with its unique citation technique it might even start a brand new trend. The tingling dichotomy of Random Thought is based on its ability to simultaneously embody the unknown and the familiar, which is represented in both of the narrative and the non-narrative parts.
“Owls, cuckoos, pigeons. Am I dreaming? A part of me sleeps tight, while another seems to be waiting for something like a moment of expected natural interruption. So in the morning you can hear them, mind it and you like it. Because it predicts that the spring is coming soon and that sustains your attention to keep it this way. So I’ll be waiting like this to hear them until I wake up at least.”
To dream of any kind of birds is a good omen with the exception of the owl, the horned own and the bat – since the relatively simple interpretation of the Babylonian Talmud, there have been several different theories to explain birds appearances in dreams. While in the above mentioned text Mačáková seems to follow the comment of the post-biblical encyclopedia, the images of her film suggest more diverse associations. The almost never ending birdsong-cavalcade already creates a tense atmosphere, but the image of the flock of birds taking different shapes, elevates it to apocalyptic.
The structure of the film also keeps generating mood swings. Mačáková uses an evident frame to fuse moving images, which represent different avant-garde trends. The film starts with a powerful structural opening: first there are vibrating surfaces showing different shades of grey and shortly an animal/botanical drawing appears among the panels. Mačáková shows this sketch for such a short time, that even after several re-appearance one can only party identify it. The sound works parallel to the images: under the constant twittering there is a biological lecture to be heard. The sentences are being repeated, they interrupt each other, form a chaotic canon. From the very first moment Mačáková poses double challenge to the viewer: she transmits information through familiar images and continuous speech, but restricts the decoding in both levels.
Mačáková softens the tension by showing the title (Random Thought – of birds and assumption) and resolves with a semi-narrative stage. The camera shows a sleeping woman from different angles, while her (?) above quoted monologue is heard in the background. To write “heard” might be a bit of an exaggeration, since her mumbling and whispering voice only allows snatches to be understood. At this point it becomes clear that Mačáková carries on with the same strategy she used in the introduction of the film; only the rhythm and the intensity have changed. This theory is supported by the repeated usage of the grey surfaces, which appear as fade-ins and fade outs, separating live action sequences. The flickering spreads over the woman’s face, which – photographed from above – assimilates into the homogeneous grey texture. Later on more sub-genres of structural film are represented. The first part refers to the softer works of Kubelka and Sharits, while the bob-haired somnambulist recalls the traditions of trance film and recreates the blurry, out of focus sequences of Warhol’s Poor Little Rich Girl.
To maintain the continuity Mačáková smuggles lyrical film representatives into the trance/structural segments of her film. After the Baille-like, almost romantic sequences, the film, while incorporating sublime images of flock of birds taking shapes, loses its newly acquired positive quality, and continues playing with the opposition of attraction-repulsion. The following found footage extract seems to rhyme with this “conflict”, as it presents a faceless woman (the image only shows her from the neck down) fighting an armada of pigeons surrounding her. This part, besides deepening the ambivalence, which defines the film, draws attention to another technical trend of the avant-garde cinema. The moving images of birds slowly deform into lyrical abstraction, and later with repeating the flickering, grey backgrounds of the opening sequence – in which the woman’s face works as a homogeneous texture – the frame becomes complete.
A Random Thought (of birds and assumption) is truly significant in the contemporary Eastern-Central-European avant-garde film scene. In less than six minutes, it manages to give an overview of several experimental film trends, while creating its own, unique universe. It could easily become a trendsetting piece in its own right.
Written by: Dorottya Szalay
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