On January 21st the annual International Film Festival Rotterdam (IFFR) kicked off its 44th edition that came to a close on February 1st. Since its establishment in the 1970s, IFFR has grown to laud itself as an active supporter of independent films and a recognised platform for the work of emerging filmmakers
from around the world. With a week to spend in the impressively gusty Dutch city for my first visit to IFFR, I was mostly eager to explore the retrospective and documentary selections over the more photographed screenings of new releases. This led to my frequent trips from the centre of the festival activity orbiting Central Station to the farther scattered Lantaren Venster experimental film venue and the Cinerama, where most of films that caught my interest were screened as part of the “Signals Regained” program.
“Regained” is an annual program in the “Signals” section of IFFR that this year comprised of seven thematic programs in all, two of which are dedicated to the life and work of specific artists. The program was established for exploring and presenting restored classics, films and documentaries that feature the subject of cinema itself, and what the IFFR considers forgotten masterpieces. Regained programmer Edwin Carels described the landscape of this year’s program selection as “a very mixed bag of short and longer productions and installations that reflect, recycle, reconfigure or reinterpret the history of the cinema in a contemporary fashion” (Carels 2015). One such Regained screening exemplified the specific 2015 thematic focus on early and current film technologies in the form of a media-archaeological, visual essay titled Mobilisierung der Träume (English: Dreams Rewired, by Martin Reinhart, Thomas Tode, Manu Luksch; Austria, 2015).
My Monday screening of Mobilisierung der Träume, the second of three throughout the festival, was well attended by an audience that filled about 75% of the mid-sized stall in the Cinerama venue. An introduction to the screening was made by one of the programmers, who introduced the three producers of the film by asking them to please stand in front of the screen and wave to the audience with the promise of a Q & A after the film. It was striking to learn at this point that the visual essay had taken 10 years to create due to an immense amount of research and audio-visual material acquisition from countless international film archives.
Before the feature, a 20-minute short film was also introduced and screened titled Speaking into the Air (Pablo Alvarez-Mesa, Canada, 2014). The film felt to me to be very comfortably well-programmed in connection to the theme of the feature film, with a good balance of temporality and tone between the two. It complimented the thematic context in its focus on the use of communication technology, interwoven with the personal account of a man who nurtures links to his own past by using a basement radio and antenna collection to communicate with other enthusiasts. This form of technology, our attitude toward the role of technology in our lives and relationships to those around us, is a primary subject of Mobilisierung der Träume. Also, Speaking was not as academically structured or as heavily narrated, so the audience did not have to go from one densely narrated and structured film about communication and technology to yet another, longer one.
Mobilisierung der Träume is an 85-minute, well-organised frenzy of compiled archival footage exhibiting imaginary and real technologies, interwoven with a narrative that is whimsical in a manner that illuminates and makes engaging the overall academic quality of the film. Viewing the unique and extensive, yet tightly-edited compilation of archival AV materials on a cinema screen was impressive, and Tilda Swinton as the narrator for the film was a positive choice. Her voice is authoritative yet neutral enough to present the sometimes academic tone of subject matter in a way that does not become irritating or boring. Overall it was a rich, media-archaeological account of the intertwined histories of visionary technologies, communications culture, and cinema.