Trailer | VILLA EMPAIN
An experimental documentary. FR/BE/AT/GER 2019 | 24mins | colour | 16mm
What could the fate of the Villa Empain, Baron Empain’s crazy project in Brussels, which has gone through a long and eventful journey since its completion in 1934, possibly inspire? Katharina Kastner’s challenge was to draw the portrait of the place, keeping in mind the work of time, like in a human existence.
Shot in 16mm, her film appeals to the senses, it captures the stirring of leaves undulating in the garden light, the movement of iridescent pearls, or the colourful games ofa piece by Daniel Buren. Without a word, but with a caressing camera, she pays close attention to the hidden patterns on the gorgeous marbles, or to the veins in the most precious types of wood used to decorate the rooms.
In slight touches, regardless of the monumental aspect of the 27.000 square-feet villa and the pool that so impressed its first visitors, Katharina Kastner offers an organic vision of the place, which has been marked by the trials and tribulations of life, and used successively as a museum, an embassy and a squat, until its final renovation. The clever editing makes furtive connections, underlines colour associations, mixes up times and tactile sensations, while the spaces we explore keep rustling.
The film takes us on a reminiscing journey, with slices of Empain’s life, from the family archive here on a holiday, there playing on the beach, images from a distant past that keep haunting the premises. The film reveals to us this living space that was designed like a piece of art, but it does so in a wandering way. This dream vision guides us through the villa like an echo of foregone fantasies, a mental space, but also a welcoming backdrop for the work of time. A bit like the fingerprint work we see in the film, or the slight touch of a pencil on a blank sheet. (Nicolas Feodoroff)