Credit: FIDMarseille
by Zachary Goldkind Featured Film

It is at this point that the need to write history arises — Constanze Ruhm [FIDMarseille ’24 Review]

July 10, 2024

Metafiction as a reclamation of the historical and a confrontation of the contemporary malaise, built up across international political discourses of pervading neoconservatism, urgently addressing the matter of aesthetics in this, the cultural miasma of globalized imperial rot retreating back to its nest. Metafiction as a stride into the knots of ideological preoccupations across borders, genders, cultures, and histories. Constanze Ruhm’s It is at this point that the need to write history arises turbulently seeks to capture this momentum, diving into the archive with the intent to wrest from it a contemplative resuscitation of proto-feminist figures and their lineage. Specifically, it surveys 17th-century women in their counter-hegemonic drive and wedges into this political crisis an ontological expansion to articulate from a single, static point in history the reimagining of waves as they ebb and flow. In many ways, Ruhm utilizes the linguistic interests of Paul Preciado’s Orlando, My Political Biography, a difficult and strained portrait of identity, and in similar fashion to that film, where postmodern sensibilities pluck against the limitations of a transparent and reflexive faux-performativity. The faculties of material violence which are taken up and reckoned with here, discerned under the structural oppressions that span a troubled record, often encroach on — if not succumb to — a neoliberalized identity politic, while the film’s theoretical scaffolding generally fails to add to well-established critique.

Ruhm’s fictions exist within a continuum of extrapolations, crystallizing through a heterogeneous formalism whose imagination feels unfortunately quite stuck in a pastiche of experimental image-making. From its use of mirrors as a motif to direct address via its troupe of actors, the project persistently reads as spiritually contained, its dialectical analysis often at odds with the organized symbology the film reimplements again and again across a limited runtime. The essay that these many thoughts and recollections culminates in is one that’s whole feels just out of reach, the ghosts this project brings into dialogue frequently overwhelming the centrifugal voice — that push toward an unknown in need of awakening — stumbling against an invisible barrier the film can’t quite circumvent. Peter Watkins’ influence bleeds through the reflexive epidermis, and with just how bogged down it all gets in discursive yet derivative aesthetic sensibilities, what is excitedly represented quickly stalls into mundanity. Ruhm’s narration reaffirms intentions again and again, but the dissonance between desire and its results becomes a subject that dwarfs the principal feminist orientation, transforming the piece into a rhetorical gambit, an idea of furcated hypotheses that the filmmaker chases and often loses grasp of. It’s easy to glean from this project a simplistic conference with an archive desperate for new life, but its machinations of fiction under the guise of postmodern aestheticism reveals the film to be defined by a more prickly and evasive amorphousness, one caught in its own cogs, grinding itself up, reforming again and again. But perhaps that’s the ingenuity here, perhaps that cannibalism is a force our queer-future steps into as the shadow of fascism rears its head back around. And in that there is much to consider and to struggle with.

Published as part of FIDMarseille 2024 — Dispatch 3.