Article by Federico Lionetti
Translation by Sebastiano Liso
Stefan (Stefan Gota), is a Romanian mason who suffers from insomnia, shaggy-faced and always wearing shorts. ShuXiu (Liyo Gong), is a lively Chinese biologist, sweet-eyed and often absorbed in her work. Both wander in a nocturnal Brussels and in its surroundings, between the long shots of under-construction buildings and details of mosses and windblown trees; they wander, get lost and find each other in a contemporary world, a biome in which the relationship of dependency between human and nature progresses into a stable understanding.
In his latest feature film, Here, presented in the Nuovimondi (“New Worlds”) section of the 41st edition of the Turin Film Festival, Belgian director Bas Devos tells us the story of the new Adam and Eve, a pair of unexpected progenitors of humanity, to whom the filmic image entrusts a task far greater than what they aspire to. A task which is foreshadowed by their own jobs: ShuXiu catalogues mosses to understand their adaptive capacities, while Stepan is a construction worker. With their jobs they help to develop civilization and culture, the same combination of devices and symbols which humans use to deal with the otherness of the world. In the slow and immersive succession of images, the director makes an inventory of this system of signs and meanings, of objects and functions: scenes of work, family affections and public transportations, but also shots of cutting boards, pots, tupperware, microwaveable cups and a stove, necessary devices for our daily survival. In thus similar to the mosses studied by ShuXiu, humans adapt and modify themselves in accordance with the environment, which in turn peacefully alters and shapes the human condition. The director’s optimistic view of the relationship between humans and nature draws inspiration from science fiction writer Ursula K. Le Guin, who argued that early humans were primarily berries and seed gatherers and thus had an essential symbiotic relationship with nature.
The film modernises this fantasy, starting from the whole and then reaching the present, which escapes all classification and conflicting dualism. A here and now, as referenced by the film’s title. During the final the out-of-town excursion of the two protagonists, the fixed shots alternating between details of flowers and woods make the audience realise that the film recreates a new symbolic order, in between an earthly paradise which is still salvageable and a too-human to be abandoned modernity.