This guy is no George Costanza, I’ll tell you what!
Written By: No One
Directed By: Hiroshi Teshigahara
If eyes are the window to the soul, then a person’s art is the window to their life. This nearly silent documentary gives as complete of a picture of Antonio Gaudí as one could hope for. The film traverses the span of Señor Gaudí’s work, showcasing in nearly wordless framing the beauty of the man’s work. In the travels of the film a picture of the man begins to form. His architecture begins to take on a distinct feel, with recurring themes, motifs, opinions, and fears coming to fruition. Throughout all of this Hiroshi Teshigahara never loses sight of the subject of his documentary, and allows for the man’s art to speak for the man.
I was enthralled by the work of Señor Gaudí, but I was also frightened. There’s a distinct rejection of nature in his work, or rather a desire to prove man’s dominion over nature. In just about all of his works Señor Gaudí incorporates nature. He mostly does so in the form of concrete or plaster renditions of flowers, trees, and so forth. He designs his architecture to mirror the look of nature, yet his work also keeps nature confined to small areas. The concrete structures that Señor Gaudí erects fight back nature while at the same time honoring nature. There is a contradiction at play in Señor Gaudí’s work, a contradiction that I found fascinating.
The pieces of architecture that feature actual plant life are the most telling of Señor Gaudí’s views on nature. He allows for nature in its true form to become a part of his piece. At the same time he beats back nature, subjugating it beneath the heel of his concrete landscape. Man has province after all, and what better way for man to show his province than to show that it can do nature better than nature itself. Shrubbery, flowers, and trees have their place, and they are beautiful. But, in the world of Señor Gaudí they are nowhere near as beautiful as his own renditions of nature. In every way the architecture of Señor Gaudí is about the power of man as imbued through god. His man made structures tower over nature, and reach towards the heavens. At the same time he praises nature he stifles it under the boot of mankind, showing that true glory can only come from god’s greatest creation, man.
If you’re reading this and thinking I haven’t said much about the film Antonio Gaudí you would be mistaken. Everything I wrote above speaks to the incredible strength of the documentary filmmaking on display in Antonio Gaudí. Teshigahara-san paints a vivid portrait of a man’s work and of the man. He weaves together a tale of a man, a complete tale, and he does so without the use of traditional documentary techniques. Antonio Gaudí plays out less like a film and more like a poem. This is Teshigahara-san’s portrait of beauty and of one man’s vision of the world. He doesn’t present his opinion of Señor Gaudí. Rather the film presents a poem of Señor Gaudí’s work and leaves it to the viewer to take what they will from the poem.
Undoubtedly there are those who will disagree greatly with my interpretations of Antonio Gaudí, both the film and the man. The work of Señor Gaudí is beautiful to look at, I would never deny that. However, I was troubled by the message that Señor Gaudí’s architecture espoused. In my mind nature always trumps man, because nature is all powerful whereas man is confined by the weakness of flesh. Time will be the greatest arbiter in the battle between Señor Gaudí and nature. Years from now his great works will have vanished thanks to the elements. Nature will win the day, but that doesn’t diminish the work of Señor Gaudí. Rather, much like the film, it puts Señor Gaudí’s work in perspective. Beautiful art, but beautiful art that falters next to the true power of nature.