Pure pluses for the evening: the visuals of the 3-D film The Book of Wisdom and Lies were evocative, and the music was from a genre not usually heard.
The Book of Wisdom and Lies. Directed by David Wilson. Screened as part of the Magic Moments: The Screen and the Eye exhibition. At Gardner After Hours, Calderwood Hall, Gardner Museum, Boston, MA, June 21.
By Anthony J. Palmer
Filmmaker David Wilson, an Artist-in-Residence at the Gardner Museum in 2009, narrated his 3-D film The Book of Wisdom and Lies as part of the Gardner After Dark program last week. The screening was accompanied by accordionist Merima Kljuco providing what sounded like improvisations; in addition, Balkan singer Eva Salina Primack was featured on several songs from the eastern European geographical area.
Set against the ancient landscapes of the Georgian Caucasus, this was the most recent of the Museum of Jurassic Technology’s film offerings. Consisting of somewhat wistful and plaintive rural scenes occupied by horses, cattle, assorted farm animals, rural buildings, and an occasional human, the film was clearly evocative of a different time and place. These images served as a parallel to several stories of a mythical nature, though there did not always appear to be a direct connection between the pictures and the narratives.
The sometimes bewildering tales, drawn from “the late 17th and 18th century book by the beloved and revered scholar, Sulkan Saba Orbeliani, for his nephew Vakhtang to instruct the young prince in the ways of mankind,” were interesting, though they seem to have been left (purposely?) unfinished. Perhaps the fragmented stories serve as a metaphor for lives that are lived in illogical or incomplete ways. Further encouraging the uncertainty, the filmmaker, narrating his movie, wasn’t always as clear as he needed to be to make the material understandable to the audience.
Several additional aids might have benefited the evening, including an explanation of the song texts, assurance that the 3-D glasses were working effectively for all, some explanation of the film, how and why it was made, and the importance of understanding the people and country where it was produced.
The vocal offerings were more effective, considerably enhanced by the accordion accompaniment. Although the texts were sung in Georgian and assorted Balkan languages, Primack’s heartfelt artistry generated powerful moods. All the songs contained effective and well-controlled melismas, at the same time evoking deep emotional connections to the mystery of the land and people of Georgia. Few instruments have the ability, save for a solo violin on gypsy tunes, to reach the heart so quickly. Kljuco’s accordion delivered the goods.