In collaboration with the International Short Film Festival Oberhausen, Shalimar Preuss's Strange Says the Angel (2017) is showing exclusively on MUBI from July 2 - August 1, 2017 as part of the series Competing at Oberhausen.
In summer 2013, I met three generations of a family in the French Basque Country. Their daily life and family stories intertwined with a river running next to the house. The pristine landscape felt like Eden, calling for myth-making: lush greenery, morning fog lingering on the river, mild climate. Yet death’s shadow also spreads here: the salmon no longer spawn here as they long did, the river bed's been excavated for gravel, inducing violent flooding, and other ills manifest themselves: for example, a child recently died from drinking tap water.
For a few days of the summers 2014 and 2015, the members of this family became my film’s non-professional actors. They generously offered their spirit, body and soul whose infinitely unique tones, scars, and longings I tried to capture. Nina, on the brim of the age of reason, gave opportunity to explore reality as constructed by emotional intelligence. The film plays (or wrestles) with her imaginative way of grasping the world, leading us away from rationality (indeed, how could reason approach a world in which a child dies from tap water?).
It seems meaning here hopes against hope—triggered by elusive echoes and rhymes (suggested in the title borrowed from the poet Prévert, “Étrange dit l’ange”). And if it wasn’t for Nina’s face—the embodied fascination with the mystery of being mortal—what indeed could be said or shown? Perhaps this short work would be left to sing with Leonard Cohen: “Who by fire, who by water? Who in the sunshine, who in the night time?”