Less is more in The Wave, a short film by Sarah Vanagt and Katrien Vermeire that makes its mark by leaving out detail that conventional film-makers would consider essential. It continues Vanagt's interest in the visual treatment of history and how people relate to it.
Text Ian Mundell
The subject of The Wave is a sensitive one: the investigation of a site thought to contain the bodies of men executed by Franco's followers in the aftermath of the Spanish Civil War. When bones are found, the exhumation continues with the same precision as an archaeological dig.
At frequent intervals Vanagt and Vermeire took still images of the site, first asking the forensic archaeologists to remove their tools and leave the frame. Edited together these images become a time-lapse film in which the bodies of nine men slowly emerge from the earth.
As well as the shifting soil, the images are animated by the changing light as clouds pass and the sun moves, casting shadows over the site. Finally, the bodies are removed one by one, leaving the merest trace on the soil.
These close-up time-lapse images are framed by others, for example showing the landscape or relatives of the dead men gathering to inspect the grave. Meanwhile the sound design uses birdsong, the wind and other ambient sounds from the site.
After a world premiere at the Sydney Biennale, the film screened at the Locarno Film Festival in August.