Bedsitters is set on the landing and the stairs of Zwartjes’ new house, then still empty, in The Hague. The filmmaker suggests a mysterious and complex space by using a ‘floating’ camera to film a number of crawling, creeping personages. Even when Zwartjes is in the picture himself, the camera keeps floating. The flowing movement and the impressive wise-angle lens turn the house into a buildling that resists logic. It seems, as in a modern computer game, to have several levels. Strange characters in sunglasses or masks run around on a landing and stairs of a house like explorers in a strange landscape, opening doors, doing strange things in the bathroom, attempting to enter closets and peek into doors. The camera twists and turns, converting the house into an impossibility.
Frans Zwartjes (Alkmaar, 1927) is a filmmaker, musician, violin maker, draughtsman, painter and sculptor. In the late sixties he causes a furor with artistic black-and-white films in which heavily made up and over-dressed actors (such as the performance artist Moniek Toebosch) are caught in a web of sexually loaded power games; hysteria, psychosis and cruelty are among his regular themes. The oeuvre of Zwartjes, once called “the most important experimental filmmaker of his time” by the American essayist Susan Sontag, includes over fifty films.
In 1968 Zwartjes was one of the first Dutch visual artists to make use of film: initially as a record of his performances, but quite soon after as an independent medium, perfectly suited to his way of creating visual art. Zwartjes did everything himself: camera, sound, editing and even the developing in the laboratory. He would work with non-professional actors among his friends, and filmed in and around his own house. What he really preferred… read more