At the end of the 18th century, Florentine artists created anatomical wax effigies for their city’s Museum of Zoology and Natural History La Specola. Surgeons dismembered the bodies and the artists’ reproductions were used as teaching aids. Every muscle and organ was revealed for close examination. And this is precisely what the Brussels-based filmmaker Olivier Smolders does, creating symmetrical images from shots of these highly realistic wax models. As the film progresses, the image manipulation becomes increasingly radical until the split and doubled bodies move across the screen as if in a kaleidoscope. The images evoke alien beings, medical experiments or symmetrical butterfly wings pushing away from one another. No subject is taboo, including female reproductive organs and fetuses, but at no point are the images offensive – this is, after all, nothing more or less than a specola, an observatory. —IDFA
Born in 1956 in Léopoldville (former Belgian Congo), Olivier Smolders completed his studies in Belgium. A graduate in Roman Philology (UCL) and lecturer at the University of Liège, he also teaches at INSAS (the Institut National Supérieur des Arts du Spectacle), the Brussels film school. He has written and produced his own short films via his own production company, Les Films du Scarabée.
He is currently one of the most innovative figures in cinematic – particularly Belgian, but also experimental – circles. The author of various books on literature and the cinema, he has also written numerous articles that have been published in different journals and magazines. His work as filmmaker, sustained by his background in literature, confronts text with image in a way that that challenges our perceptions. Cultivating all kinds of discrepancy, his films, dosed with derision, have about them a whiff of the “fantasy film”, in which domain Nuit Noire, his first full-length feature, would… read more