James Gabrillo checks in from Abu Dhabi to report on The View from Our House and finds that the film’s medley of images serves as a conceptual template that fails to reveal anything.
There are no actual characters, just a voiceover. No action, just a jumble of images. Of a house, an intersection, a pavement. Of surfaces and spaces. Halfway through The View from Our House, I wondered: What is happening? An hour later, more important questions surfaced: Who was this film made for? And why was it made?
Turns out, it’s quite inspired. Based on the writings of a young woman who lived near a concentration camp in the 1930s, The View from Our House shows contemporary images the directors Anthea Kennedy and Ian Wiblin felt could relate to the horrifying memory. That street isn’t just a street — it’s the path the woman took to get home, passing by the prison on the way.
Unfortunately, we never find out about this through the film, not unless one reads a synopsis before or after watching it.
Acts of cinematic organisation, such as juxtaposing images through a montage, usually presents a story in revealing ways. But the film’s medley of images serves as a conceptual template that fails to reveal anything. Its harmony (or disharmony) is realised only when we find out about the woman’s story, so what’s the point? For a work that looks self-conscious, it doesn’t look very thought-out or carefully pieced-together. It takes a static approach for a topic too important — and then compounds the problem with a non-linear narrative.
"Can you imagine?" asks the woman’s voiceover at one point. But what are we supposed to visualise? What are the viewers expected to conjure up with seemingly meaningless phrases uttered randomly? Of clips that are neither inspiring nor hallucinatory? One leaves a screening of The View from Our House with these questions — and more: Is it meant to alienate? Would it have worked better as a video installation in an art gallery?
James Gabrillo is an arts editor for the Abu Dhabi-based broadsheet The National.