Saturday, 24 January 2009

Habana - Arte Nuevo de Hacer Ruinas


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A film by Florian Borchmeyer and Matthias Hentschler. Spanish with English hardsub.

Havana is famous for the morbid charm of its flaking facades. The beauty of this city lies in the poetry of its ruins. They are far less poetic, however, for the people who inhabit them. Houses frequently collapse causing fatalities. The decay of the city and its living quarters is a continual source of both danger and shame for its residents... The film portrays five people in Havana who reside in buildings at various states of decay. They all try to escape from a life which risks to become ruined by the fact of inhabiting a ruin. Plumber Totico flees from the noisy inferno of his tenement in the center of Havana and spends his time with the pigeons on the flat roof. Homeless Reinaldo has found shelter in the rubbles of a theater in which once Caruso sang for Cuba’s high society. Misleidys, ex-wife of a millionaire, leaves behind the golden cage of her marriage in order to live in the debris of a formerly glamorous hotel. Ponte, a writer, conceives a philosophy of the ruin to be able to explain and bear the gradual collapse of the city and the political system. The film is a portrait of the inhabited ruins of Havana and their strange blend of magic and demolition and captures the final moments of these buildings before they’re renovated – or simply collapse altogether. (source)

Also, some quotations of what Cuban writer Antonio José Ponte says about Havana and ruins in the film:

"I consider myself a ruinologist. A ruinologist is someone who is always thinking about ruins and trying to explain them... The perversity of getting pleasure from something that's falling apart."

"When one starts to justify to oneself why ruins are so interesting, is that perverse or not? You start to look for documentation. The greatest text of all those I was able to find on this subject was written by Georg Simmel, the German essayist. He states that man takes from nature stones, elements, woods... And uses these to build. Then nature destroys what man has wrought. There is a moment when everything is in balance, and that moment of equilibrium is what Simmel values most about ruins. Then he talks about how, on the outskirts of Rome, by the roadside he finds inhabited ruins. He pauses before these ruins with a certain feeling of disdain, in a state of repugnant contemplation. People inhabiting the ruins... is totally inconsistent with Simmel's viewpoint. Why? Because at that point, he believes, people have already crossed over to the other side. They work to destroy, to undermine man's efforts, in order to help nature. Simmel's uneasiness in front of the ruins marks the end of the period of the classical contemplation of ruins. It isn't the Parthenon with which one is confronted. It isn't Pompeii that you visit during the day and at night there are only the guards who watch the place. No, it's a place where life goes on - and where change happens. And that's something Simmel wouldn't have liked. Something abhorrent to any classical contemplator of ruins."

"In a city like Havana a ruin isn't simply a pretty, historical place. Havana has been ruined. There are more ruins than in Rome. Well, Rome is "Mamma Ruina", the Imperial Rome, and the Rome that all other ruins aspire to. The difference is huge. Cuban ruins are inhabited. Inhabited ruins lead you to reflect on history, about how empires have fallen, a nostalgic kind of reflection. You can evoke nostalgia for a civilization. But inhabited ruins don't allow much space for nostalgia because the feeling is too poisonous, too fatal. It's too acute, it hurts too much. It can only scandalize you."

"How can a city exist, a devastated capital like Havana, that hasn't gone through any war or natural disaster, that made it end up like this? What interests me is that it has been an exercise in destruction. A building might be ruined in one place or an entire neighborhood. But when a whole capital is in ruins, it is the construction of ruins. We can talk about an art of making ruins. Ruins are made, fabricated. In the 18th century, mainly in England, an art of making ruins existed. Rich owners built artificial ruins in the parks of their mansions, because of the current gothic revival. I have a theory. The whole of Fidel Castro's speeches, currently and for many years since, are based on the US invasion. Havana city, maintained in ruins, corresponds exactly with that discourse. Fidel Castro, in order to legitimize his political power, has said that we're about to be invaded by the United States. To legitimize such power architecturally, the city already looks as if it has been bombed and invaded. That's why we can talk about a 'New Art of Making Ruins'. In the end, it's like those English landowners. Since the gothic era didn't take place in their domains, they replicated it, and they built phony ruins. Since the invasion never happened, we're the fake ruins of that invasion, of that invasion, of that war [that] never was."

6 comments:

J. said...

"I consider myself a ruinologist. A ruinologist is someone who is always thinking about ruins and trying to explain them... The perversity of getting pleasure from something that's falling apart."

Here are some very good reasons to see this film ... I am curious ...

Anonymous said...

in which case the world is fast becoming a pleasurable place

k. krusete said...

thanks for posting this!

Anonymous said...

^^Thanks!!

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Vitae_ said...

I downloaded all the files but the first one says "unexpected end of archive" or something similar.. please don't tell me i've downloaded it all for nothing :(

Jessica said...

Hey Vitae_!

I've just downloaded all the parts again myself and the extraction process worked just fine.

Could you please check that parts 1-7 have the same file size (195 MB/200.400.000 Bytes); part 8 should have 22.5 MB). If not, you will have to download that part again whose file size deviates from the others. Hope that works.