By changing the intensity of the emotional and sensual impact Mira Gáberová manages to smuggle several intellectual references in her moving pictures. Although her filmography mostly consists of dramatic pieces full of different metaphor-clusters she is not afraid of using comical elements in her work. Her artistic attitude is based on the confrontation of extremes, the usage of powerful symbols, the exploitation of clichés, hypertextuality and the urge to discover the nature of femininity. Gáberová’s pieces might show deep interest in gender topics but it would be misleading to squeeze them all into one category only. Regarding the canonized experimental film trends the young Slovak artist is quite adventurous. Whether she is aware of this or not she draws on the traditions of the lyrical film, experiments with the imagist concept whilst reflecting on the feminist cinema of the 70s and 80s.
Gáberová’s 2006 film, Forever gently connects centuries, cultures and art forms. The piece works with two main symbols. The woman in white representing innocence, fatalism, the ethereal and the unobtainable. The black raven stands for deceit and bane but also bears the attributes of the supernatural. Gáberová admittedly recycles and exploits clichés but the modus operandi is not at all ordinary. The raven in the film is a synthesis of references coming from five different ages representing three different genres (poem, song, opera). The analogies group around two stories, which are intertextually connected. The first story is Edgar Allan Poe’s well known poem, The Raven and its adaptation by Lou Reed. The last verse of the latter one works as a prologue in Gáberová’s movie.
But the raven, never flitting
Still is sitting silent sitting
Above a painting silent painting
Of the forever silenced whore
And his eyes have all the seeming
Of a demon’s that is dreaming
And the lamplight over him
Streaming throws his shadow to the floor
I love she who hates me more
I love she who hates me more
And my soul shall not be lifted from that shadow
Reed’s audio performance is followed by a part of an opera from 1731, called Coronide. The version played is the one adapted by a Czech composer Vit Zouhar. The plot spans back till the Anno Domini designation as it borrows the story of The Raven, Coronis and Ocyrhoe which belonged to Ovid’s Methamorphoses. The original opera was Francesco Pelli’s merit but unfortunately his piece had not been preserved. Zouhar – by expending the libretto of the so called Shepherd of Arcadia – composed a new opera. According to the tale Apollo falls in love with Coronis (Coronide in Italian) and she in turn loves him. However the raven poisons their relationship when it tells Apollo that it has seen his beloved with another man. The angered god feeling betrayed pierces Coronis’s heart with a silver arrow without questioning the raven’s accusation. Apollo immediately regrets his hasty actions but the nymph’s life cannot be saved anymore. Before she dies she whispers to Apollo: „The two of us are dying in one body now.” Only then the god finds out that Coronis was carrying their child Asclaepius. As the author states: „the ultimate moral of the story points out, that love is fickle and easily deceived.”
There is an interesting connection between the story variations. In both cases Gaberová uses an after-millennium adaptation of an artistic product created in the far past (1th, 18th, 19th century). Lou Reed’s album was released in 2003, Vit Zouhar composed his new opera in 2000. The simultaneity of the classical and the contemporary is one of the most important motifs of Gaberová’s film working as a clever illustration of the distance between the ages.
Gáberová deliberately hides the used references. The first two lines of the quotation mentioned above are missing from the film which means that the word ’raven’ cannot be heard. Only those who know Reed’s adaptation could interpret the allusion or who even then – while watching the film – realize that he is actually listening to a revised version of Poe’s poem. Most likely even among the ones who are familiar with this reference are only a few who came across Zouhar’s Coronide and are able to recall the plot of the libretto. The joy of recognition in this second reference is the privilege of only the most determined and the most curious.
The raven in Poe’s poem – which also riots in classical and folklore references – forebodes the baleful change while functioning as a passage between worlds. It connects the forgotten or perhaps that which is we would rather forget in the past with the present. The atmosphere created by the author enhances the supernatural aspect transmitted by the raven. The man in the poem calls the raven „tempter sent”, „thing of evil”, „bird of devil” which also describes the raven in Coronide. In Gáberová’s film the raven appears as a dark shadow dissolving through a woman in white which transforms into the image of darkness surrounding the woman.
The joyful spinning of the woman is up against the standstill of the bird („And the raven, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting”), that shows the contrast of life and death. This never ending whirling could also refer to the pervasive madness of the god committing the murder (Apollo) or the man not being able to forget his lost lover (main character in The Raven). The ambivalent character of the film is emphasized by a symbol confronting the negative connotation of the bird: the lilies. This is the rather unnecessary motif in the film, unlike the title which is indeed quite ingenious. Forever is the offset of the term nevermore, the key word of Poe’s poem.
In Gáberová’s film there is no sign of the lonely man stricken by guilt. The look and movement of the woman the coulisse around the woman, the word whispered by the woman, the figure receding through the woman, music composed around the woman and the monologue presenting the entre’e of the woman all articulate the references mentioned above. Gáberová introduces the form of the woman as the main medium, where representation – together with the presence of the man – banishes the „male gaze”. In Forever the woman is not the object of the male voyeurism but the manifestation of the birth of the „female gaze”.
Gáberová’s Forever lasts less than four minutes and is a remarkable piece of work. Despite the short length a deeper analysis will – hopefully – result in many long studies, academic discussions or even bar conversations. Because of its multi-layer referential structure it could work as education material as well as being perfect for extending one’s literary, artistic, musical or pop-cultural knowledge.
Written by: Dorottya Szalay