Time Passes (2015) by Ane Hjort Guttu

On a third viewing I am still unsure what draws me to this film so much. Perhaps this uncertainty is caused by the film’s cinematic detachment. It feels pre-Internet in its tone and style, and it doesn’t necessarily develop questions outside of its context. This maybe counter to Ane’s intentions but I found myself evaluating the film as an insular dynamic, not reading its politic on a wider scale. Perhaps this is because I am not Norwegian, yet the characters and events of the film did not feel very different from my own art college experiences. To me, the film felt more like a fairy-tale, complete in itself yet somehow able to comment on reality without direct analogy. Damla’s relationship with the Roma beggar Bianca is both believable and unbelievable in equal measure (as any cinematic dynamic should be), and, although the art students and lecturers could easily be discussing their art practice here in this room, they are shot and edited with a filmic eye, rendering and mediating them to story-serving caricatures. Time Passes feels like a film in the way life (and education) can often feel like a film. The effect seems to heighten the internal frustration of Damla. Being a young art student is a time when life feels like a film and everyone, including yourself, like actors talking and thinking in a mixture of scripted lines and improv. It is a time when metafiction feels less like a style of literature and more like the experience of being alive. When I watch Time Passes, the characters seem defined as fictions, their world is unreal in its manner, yet the whole thing seems perfectly believable in its abstract dilemma.

This certainly doesn’t mean to say that the film denies any implicit interpretations. The fact that the two main roles are female and the dismissive voices are generally male gives us plenty of fuel for discussion about masculine and feminine artistic traits (the male painter – a grotesque reminder of old-fashioned masculine ‘power-painter’ ideologies – and the cringingly well-meaning yet inert tutor, versus the more empathetic views of Damla’s female peer). Feminist discussion is also readily available in the marginalised voice of a Romanian beggar pushed to the foreground. There are also nods toward post-Marxian understandings of time and value (note the Adorno volume in Damla’s book shelf), and the status of affluent north European countries and the disoriented generations spawned by them. However, the film is definitely more Jarmusch (Stranger than Paradise) than Godard (Week-end), and any sense of direct politic is, as far as I can tell, carefully avoided. What we are given instead is a simple relationship conundrum that is left to the viewer personally to resolve.

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