Rivers Return started life as a series of station idents, 15-second videos that played between programmes on the Franco-German channel Arte during 2011. The 27 short scenes were conceived with a narrative in mind and now their creator, Joe Vahoutteghem, has brought that story to the fore in a 12-minute short film that screened at the Locarno Film Festival in August.
Text Ian Mundell
'I came up with all kinds of images where people went through transitions,' he explains. 'Then I found I wanted to tie all these fragments together into a work of fiction, a kind of looped world that lets the viewer discover that everything is connected.'
These transitions include children who change before our eyes into old men and back again, men who change into women, and costumes that shift colours and styles in the blink of an eye. Some of this is achieved digitally, but Vahoutteghem is also an expert at theatrical sleight of hand, staging the changes in real life and capturing them on film.
The looping narrative not only brings events full circle, but says something about the cycle of life: birth and death, love and loss, the headlong rush of modern society and our renewal through nature.
The visually rich film was shot on location in Slovenia by Vahoutteghem and rising Flemish cinematographer Nicolas Karakatsanis (Bullhead, The Loft). Music is provided by Icelandic multi-instrumentalist Ólafur Arnalds. The film is produced by Czar.be.