232 Third St. at 3rd Ave., Brooklyn, NY 11215
Germantown Ave & N 2nd St, Philadephia, PA 19123
367 Youngtown Road, Lincolnville, Maine 04849
79th Street and Central Park West, New York, NY, 10024-5192
Convento (Jarred Alterman | Portugal | 52 min.)
Two fox skulls rise on spindly necks to dance and fight. Nearby in the chirping woods, a woman gathers her laundry, seemingly oblivious. A metal beetle whirrs and clicks, scaring a curious bird into fissure. A monastery in ruins is resurrected as a palace of ingenuity, as much in harmony with nature as it is incongruous within it.
Built 400 years ago, the convent on a cliff is now home to Geraldine Zwanikken and her sons Christiaan and Louis. The family settled here to find and forge a new wellspring of creativity. Christiaan has tapped the well literally, building a robotic donkey which walks an endless circle, lifting water to compound’s highest point, to trickle down and nurture Geraldine’s garden. The art is ghastly but gorgeous, an homage to the boys’ childhood donkey, and to all working animals and clever machines. Made out of modern scrap machinery but referencing eternal truths about the history and nature of animal life, this piece, like all of Christiaan’s work, like the convent, is a glorious contradiction, an object at odds with itself.
Director Jarred Alterman revels in the Zwanikkens’ poetic paradoxes. Lusciously photographed, intricately edited, delicately constructing a soundscape that mixes the sounds of the hills with the noises of a science fiction film set in Medieval times, Convento is a delightful immersion in the sun-dusted scrubland,
in the crumbling walls of the ancient building, in Christiaan’s Frankenstein lab, revealing a unique vision of existence.