Tuesday 29 November at 7pm
The Elizabeth Picture Theatre
Human Flowers of Flesh, Helena Wittmann, 2022, 106m
“The seas was calm, but it looked rough beside the perfectly smooth surface of the river. A bright spray showed where the two met.” The Sailor from Gibraltar
Ida lives on a ship with her crew of five men. In Marseille her attention is caught by the secretive male world of the French Foreign Legion and she decides to follow its traces across the Mediterranean. As Ida and her crew sail via Corsica to the historical headquarters of the Legion in Algeria, boundaries and certainties blur while life at sea produces a special kind of mutual understanding.
There are three broad currents to Human Flowers of Flesh. The first reworks Marguerite Duras’ The Sailor from Gibraltar in which a woman sails across the Mediterranean, accompanied by her male crew, hunting her sailor love. The second refracts Claire Denis’ Beau Travail and its embodied interest in the French Foreign Legion, its intersection with empire and violence, with Wittmann replacing Gibraltar’s pursuit of a sailor with a hunt for Beau Travail’s Galoup (Denis Lavant). The third reflects the physical world of the Mediterranean itself. Though referential, Human Flowers is not a dry conceptual work and is instead suffused with the tangible, pleasurable, presence of glaring stone and light radiating off of water. As shadows shift across varied bodies, Human Flowers of Flesh deftly co-mingles categories.