Abacuc: experimentation that goes back to the origins of cinema

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Abacuc is a provocative, highly experimental film that brutally demolishes the standardized language that cinema has built from its origins to today, in a brutal way as has rarely been done before. 

The “non” plot of Abacuc

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Abacuc, the protagonist of the film, is played by Dario Bacis, a forty-year-old weighing 200 kilos with a fixed and glacial gaze, but also humanly intense. Abacuc is alarge, burly man who wanders through various cemeteries for no apparent reason. Abacuc never speaks, he is a character who emerges from the dimension of silent cinema

Sometimes he carries a book with him, sometimes he wears a wig. The cinematic story is often interrupted by visual and sound inserts: figures of skeletons, vintage postcards, a robotic voice on an answering machine that says absurd things. 

Artificial voices, which present themselves as Mr. Vita in trap and the Marquise of Sad Mountain, alien voices that obsessively repeat messages that are sometimes grotesque, other times disturbing: the death of Igor Stravinsky, the alarm of a world that is disappearing, the causes of premature ejaculation. 

The style of the film

Abacuc is a challenge to the public to overcome the boundaries of what is considered cinema. Shot in Super 8 film, with a protagonist reminiscent of the actors taken from the path of of the films of Sicilian directors Ciprì and Maresco’s films, Abacuc is a film made up of visual and sound fragments, almost indecipherable film editing streams. 

An avant-garde game that takes us back to the great avant-garde films of the 1920s. A film that is truly a mysterious object in the contemporary film market. Abacuc is a biblical prophet who has fallen into a hopeless universe. A wandering and tormented soul that wanders relentlessly in a monstrous city. 

Squalid architectures oppress Abacuc, in an almost unbearable ugliness. A squalor that follows him everywhere, between the concrete walls of the buildings or to the lake in the city park. Abacuc is a man condemned to wander in a cold and metaphysical, lifeless hell. The hell of our cities without ethical and sustainable planning.

Abacuc is a film built through a series of devices that work in a loop. obsessive repetition of images that evoke death, such as cemetery niches, different types of graves, faces of missing persons. Lyrical pieces that return frequently. The artificial voices of the answering machine with their obsessive refrains such as “I read Lacan / I go to the mountains, I read Adorno / I watch porn.” 

The themes of Abacuc

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Abacuc is the adventure of a naive man, a impartial observer who is lost in a world that he absolutely fails to understand. A world made of gears and obsessive repetitions, of desolating and depressing city landscapes. A world where the only sensible action seems to go to the cemetery to look at the graves. 

Perhaps Abacuc is not a physical presence but the spirit of someone who is no longer in this world. A soul condemned to wander in the astral world, still tied for some reason to the squalid landscapes of his city. Is that why he goes to cemeteries all the time? It could be a key to reading. 

There can be many interpretations of the film but in the end it is not even that important. Images and sounds themselves convey exactly what they want to convey. A sense of discomfort, of bewilderment. The feeling of repetition, of walking in circles, always returning unwittingly to the same places. 

But the director Luca Ferri colors Abacuc with irony and a sense of the grotesque. The black and pessimistic vision finds its outlet in a liberating laugh. Habacuc inspires sympathy, entertains, makes tenderness. And after all, the film never takes itself too seriously. The director’s intent is to create a cinematic game, a sophisticated editing device constructed of precisely chosen pieces. 

We could define Abacuc as a kind of mechanical ballet in the age of alienation technological. Even if neither smartphone nor computer appears in the film: the protagonist seems immersed in a reality of overbuilding of cities that evokes the 70s and 80s. A musical score of visual and sound nonsense. 

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The director Luca Ferri

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Luca Ferri was born in Bergamo in 1976. Self-taught, approaches to writing to photography and film as an autodidact. His films are presented in various national and international festivals, including Atlanta Film Festival, Biografilm Festival, India Lisboa, Pesaro Film Festival, Cinemambiente, Taipei Film Festival, Thessaloniki, Vilnius short Film Festival and many others.

The Cineteca Nazionale di Roma organized a retrospective of his works in 2003. Abacuc is his first fiction feature film and was released in theaters in 2015 after being screened at the Turin Film Festival and at the festival de Mar De Plata. Later in 2016 he created Colombi, which presented the 73rd Venice film exhibition in the Orizzonti section. In 2018 he made the film Dulcinea, selected at the 71st Locarno Film Festival. 

In 2020 he shoots the film The house of love presented at the 70th Berlinale in the forum section, where he receives the mention at the Teddy Award. The film is also presented at the 77th Venice Film Festival. His latest work of 2021 is titled A Thousand Cypresses and was presented at the 67th International Film Festival in Oberhausen.

According to the director Luca Ferri Abacuc plays the last possible show, between the memory and the rubble of the artistic avant-gardes. He wanted to make a static, immobile film, where no camera movement is required from the cinematographic narration, no movement is possible anymore and reality is documented without any pretense of truth. 

It is neither fiction nor documentary, but a fusion of both. Cinema is contaminated with puppet theater, theater of the absurd, photography and architecture. The director wanted to stage a great farce in which the extreme formal rigor also allows the grotesque register. The grotesque hides behind the seriousness of the protagonist’s repetitive actions.

The pictorial inspiration comes from Piero della Francesca, George Grosz and Otto Dix. Luca Ferri Face’s idea of ​​cinema starts from an aesthetic idea where each shot is a unique event and where the various fragments find a harmonic balance in the flow of the montage. A harmony of form in conflict with the events told.

Alienation and the lack of meaning

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Isn’t that what many human beings feel? The routine that repeats itself without a precise meaning. Phenomena that follow one another without us being able to understand them. The oppressive greyness of a social mechanism of which we do not feel part of. 

The filmic universe of Abacuc looks like a world that has reached the end of history. Human beings are no more: there are only mechanisms that replicate their voices and photographs that evoke their past existences. the death of Igor Stravinsky, the message repeated by the electronic voice of the answering machine, the death of an ethical society. The death of a social pact replaced by nothing. 

A society where there is no longer any real communication. The messages of the artificial voice start when Abacuc picks up the phone, as if to support the popular saying “everyone hears what they want to hear”. Abacuc is a man who only knows his monologue, as well as the voices and human presences he is surrounded by. The dystopian world of total alienation, taken to extreme consequences, beyond Antonioni’s cinema, beyond the 60s and 70s. 

Abacuc understood that he was not from this universe. But he is imprisoned in the cage made of deformed architecture and loneliness. A world where contact with humans is non-existent. The only beings with whom Abacuc establishes a silent dialogue are those who have disappeared, those of the other world from which he knows he too comes, the plastic heads of the wigs. A kind of nostalgia, while the gray of the city concrete becomes more and more oppressive. 

The only possibility of existence for Abacuc in this dimension is to go to an artificial replica of our city: Italy in Miniature. While the royal cities have come to their end and the history of civilization seems to have no following, the only sensible action is to go to another type of cemetery, a theme park where these cities have been rebuilt into a simulacrum. 

In the age of extreme materialism and consumerism, our life appears as an obsessive repetition of gestures without end and without meaning. Every spiritual activity has been transformed into superstition. 

Abacuc as a mirror of society

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In our society, people believe only in matter. It is the scientific and materialistic society that has established itself to dominate the planet in the last two centuries. There is only the body, and the medicines to heal the body. If a piece of the body falls ill, we replace it as we do with a car. 

The soul, the energy, the power of thought are simply denied, they do not exist. The church should take care of the soul, but those in power know that the church has now become an incapable, corrupt, ever-declining institution. The Church today is not an influencer for the new generations, but the meeting place of some elderly person in search of relief and prayer. 

The hearth of the family is television, with its commercials that all revolve around the needs of the physical body, with the demented and grotesque language of the man happy to possess matter. On TV the spiritual essence of man, which is his greatest part, simply does not exist. 

The temple of modern prayer is the commercial center. It is the commercial center today that holds society together, hanging on the fragile thread of material satisfaction. Consumption rituals that go slowly towards their end, because the matter is limited, and not really satisfying. Matter is extinguished and consumed by entropic movement. 

Abacuc is the new avant-garde cinema

Abacuc, not a hit and run consumer product, but a communication tool with continuous social, existential, philosophical and spiritual implications. It is an important film, much more important than famous mainstream films or those awarded at prestigious festivals. Films that often don’t tell the world we live in so well. 

Abacuc could be called a film from a pioneering new era of cinema. A work made with the same means used by the Lumière brothers and other directors in early cinema. A unique object, not comparable to any other. 

Or, even better, an archaeological find from a lost civilization. Maybe a Super 8 reel found in a grave. A message in a bottle entrusted to the waves to seek help. Maybe Abacuc was The last man on Earth who decided to deliver these images to the survivors? A film that gives you such a radical and extreme vision that it is difficult to forget. 

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