Friday, 1 January 2010

ROOMS (Svenoslav Kartosky, 1967)

'Kartosky is a cartographer of fear, but be finds the absurdity of existence both compelling and comforting' Christian Metz

The weather chased her here, the wind at the wings of the plane, the sea blocking easy paths, the lightning that took down trees in her way, forcing her to turn left then right.

There is a large out-of-town supermarket. The entrance, through double-doors, is at the right hand-side of the front edge of the building. Buffeted by the wind, she decides to take shelter inside. The first room is small and dark. The impression is felt that the building is not too deep, but instead spreads away to the left. The visitor expects, of course, a cavernous space filled with strip lighting, but this option is not offered. Instead, there seems to be a series of small rooms connected to one another. When making her way through the first few series of rooms, the visitor is reminded sometimes of a fallow old teacher from primary school, or fleetingly remembers a game of dominoes with a dead relative. This is not unusual of course, for any visitor to any place will find themselves bedevilled by a waking thought of someone or some song for no reason that offers itself, but somehow the heavy flavours of the half-memories here are strong.

She feels a sense of huge spaces beyond her view. She feels lost, completely displaced. This configuration is illogical. But somehow she is comforted, in a way that makes little sense. It is as if up until this point she had some kind of thesis to defend, but now she is liberated from the chore. She tilts drunkenly. A light seems to flicker somewhere, but she doesn't see it so much as feel it.

She can hear the wind, far away, but it cannot reach her now. When did she leave the plane?

The visitor ducks behind a heavy curtain, sidesteps a pile of chairs and clims a set of three stairs. Then a shred of daylight, a coldness, stone floors. To her right are two identical cubicles, that remind her of the bathroom at her parents' grocery shop from when she was a child. She hasn't seen it for years, but remembers sitting on the cold seat and reading every comic in the shop. And here it is, not only doubled from her memory, but twinned again in front of her eyes, gloomy and cool.

And from here it is not too much of a step for her to begin recognizing other rooms- one ordinary door opens into an exact replica of her grandfather's shed, and the smell of honeyed wood brings involuntary tears to her face. The next room is vaguer, dimmer, and it is a while before she places it as a college friend's bedroom, pink, white and empty. She begins to rush through the rooms, desperate for certain places from her past, certain places that lack importance to everybody else except herself, were only significant enough to serve as obscured backdrops in family photos at Christmases and birthdays, and never appearing as the focus themselves. These vessels, stuck together in arbitrary fashion, seemed to make up a labyrinth of her past, minus people and context.

...and then for a second, the voice of her father, clear as a strong bell, rises into her eardrum. Lena, The Awful Truth is on TV. Irene Dunne. Cary Grant. Leo McCarey. Nineteen-Thirty-Seven. Lena! It's a good one, Lena.

She pushes through a stickered door and into her own bedroom, the one she had between the ages of six and sixteen. A man is sitting on the bed. He is dressed in a brown robe and has a kind, pink face.

Why Are You in my room?
Why are you in your room? Perhaps this is the real question.
Where Are We?
Sit down. There's something I need to tell you.
Who are you?
Don't you recognise me? I'm your brother. I'm here to tell you something. All the rooms you see here are rooms you have visited before during your life. They are here to provide a familiarity to the background. This is so that when you faint from news of your death, you do so in the apparent comfort of memories.
What are you talking about?
The configuration of all of these rooms together is absurd I know. This makes everything seem more like a dream. We find that if you think death is something like a confusing nightmare, then this helps you accept the news.
I'm dead?
Just think of it as a new year. A new decade, even. Walk boldly.

Rooms Directed by Svenoslav Kartosky Written by Svenoslav Kartosky, Mikel Kartosky Produced by Victor Garda Starring Joelie Michoz, Guus Speck Release Date: UK/US: N/A Cze/Fra: July 1967 32mins Tagline:Which ten-thousand rooms are you?


  1. Woah. This sounds very much like a nightmare I had very recently.

  2. I really NEED to see this film. It sounds like a transfiguration of CUBE with a warped memory mapped onto it. I love the way you describe it, and the atmosphere you set up so well - it really gave me goosebumps.

    I particularly like the first paragraph:
    "The weather chased her here, the wind at the wings of the plane, the sea blocking easy paths, the lightning that took down trees in her way, forcing her to turn left then right."
    The vision of the weather chasing her - and the significance of the weather having "chased" her to death in the plane is incredible. I love this.