Evocations of the Power of Life and Creation: MOON Martina Zelenika’s “Mountain”
Croatian artist MOON Martina Zelenika’s beautiful and disturbing new film “Mountain” opens with a stunning shot of the night sky- a fathomless expanse beyond a craggy outcrop of rock, the peak of Mt Velebit, the most spacious Mt in Croatia. The film-maker offers us this timeless, meditative sequence as an invitation to pause and reflect; to focus on the film’s core message.
As night dissolves into day we are flown across a mountainous and partially forested landscape to survey distant peaks, towards ranges of an unpopulated and rugged beauty – evoking an experience of the sublime. The drama of the soundtrack compliments the majesty of this vista, reaching a crescendo before merging with human voices, introducing us to a grassy idyl and close-up of a grazing horse. The camera lingers and caresses the viewer with textures and details of the animal, it’s eye a mysterious dark pool drawing us to the centre of the image. The calm is broken as we are confronted by a new and disturbing element emerging from this evocation of Eden, as a female figure, bound and trussed, is revealed. This new sequence is accompanied by an electronically manipulated voice-over, the feminine embodiment of the soul of the mountain who warns against the conflicting will of humanity for domination and destruction. For artist MOON, the mountain, indeed the whole of nature, is suffused with the feminine, with the energy and forces of Gaia- the goddess of the power of life and creation:
In the Croatian language the words for earth…nature, mountain, land, water, river, forest belongs to the female gender. It is a female energy, mother’s energy, a symbol of unconditional love. She provides us food and shelter. (1)
Zelenika considers the film to be an audio-visual poem, seeking to create a blend of traditional filmic story-telling and performance with a palette of digital techniques, merging influences from aspects of European culture with those of Japan. This sensibility is evidenced in her evocative deployment of the practice of Kinbaku, (the art of Japanese bondage), which provides an erotic charge to the film, and in the way in which she draws on the imagery and dance techniques of Butoh (Dance of Darkness) in her performances. Beautifully photographed with powerful and detailed close-ups, there are high production values throughout; the film is impressively composed and paced, married with powerful sound design.
Developed from a theatre piece, Mountain is Martina Zelenika’s first film, and having discovered and employed the medium’s power and capacity for direct emotional impact, she has demonstrated a distinctive ability to harness it, producing a work that is both evocative and powerful in its message and direct appeal. On the evidence of this impressive debut, there will undoubtably be more to come.
Chris Meigh-Andrews, Feb 2019.