Title: Over Your Cities Grass Will Grow
Director: Sophie Fiennes
Featuring: Anselm Kiefer
Anselm Kiefer and the notion of the venerated artist more generally is celebrated in Sophie Fiennes documentary “Over Your Cities Grass Will Grow,” a kind of ethereal, meandering nonfiction look at the aforementioned German painter and sculptor. Attempting to mine greater meaning out of the minutiae of artistic production, this glacially paced film will hypnotize some with its often beautiful compositions and mesmeric rhythms, but mostly confound general audiences, and those desiring a pinch more of a conventional biographical hook upon which to hang the hat of their captured interest.
Characterized by a foreboding and depressive style that sometimes incorporates straw, ash and other small detritus into his conceptual works detailing the horrors of the Holocaust and other aspects of German history, Kiefer isn’t necessarily what you’d call a widely known commercial or pop artist. To that end, casual art world viewers expecting a lot of insight or contextual explanation of Kiefer’s work will be sorely disappointed. Narrated by Klaus Dermutz, Fiennes’ film is an almost oppressively removed and arty thing in and of itself. Save for a mid-film segment in which Kiefer submits to queries from an art historian, the movie is otherwise composed largely of shots and sequences that track around its subject’s work.
Fiennes’ film is supposed to kind of ironically showcase the gritty and often mundane processes required to transform elements into art, into something grander than their mere parts, and in doing so at such an emotional remove (perhaps?) serve as a parallel commentary on cinematic creation. But the sad fact remains that this is just a brutally unengaging forced expedition. Some of the images themselves are quite attractive to look at, but when people attack the ivory-tower elitism of academic treatises, it’s works like “Over Your Cities Grass Will Grow” about which they are speaking. One leaves with the rather remarkable but unpleasant feeling of simultaneously having not learned much, and yet also having contempt for what they have gleaned.
Written by: Brent Simon