Der Da Vinci Timecode – Gil Alkabetz

With Der Da Vinci Timecode, screened at this years Silhouette Festival in Paris, animation director Gil Alkabetz proposes a highly sophisticated and inventive animation of Da Vinci’s Last Supper.

On the backdrop of a fiercely neo-baroque soundtrack signed Alexander Zlamal, the Germany-based Israeli director, Gil Alkabetz works up an innovative exercise in deconsctruction and reconstruction of what is probably the best-known Da Vinci painting after the Mona Lisa. Alkabetz finds curious details from The Last Supper, which he reshapes freely so as to weave new narrative fragments into an iconography deeply ingrained in the Western imagination: a play of gestures, accusatory glances and chaotic movements leading gradually towards the central figure of the Christ who, with one raised finger, silences the crowd, before the scene zooms out to a wide shot of the painting such as we know it.

Alkabetz does indeed draw on the excessive media attention and mystification showered upon Da Vinci’s works in recent years. In the film’s synopsis, he speaks of discovering “secret movements” in the Cena. However, this cryptic dimension is soon surpassed. First of all, making the most of the painting’s one-point perspective and the almost theatrical frontality of the subject, Alkabetz manages to attract the spectator-as-voyeur and attributes the painting with a dramatic tension. With the help of a rigorous editing technique, similar to that of Soviet montage, the director breaks from the bounded static frame of the canvas to create a cyclic, almost perpetual motion, thereby instilling a frenzy in the otherwise placid, solemn subject. At the same time, the choreography of gestures brings about a whole new narrative text to the work (which incidentally was also used by Peter Greenaway in 2008 for his installation “Nine classic paintings revisited” in which he “animates” the tableaux with sundry lighting effects).

Much like Duchamp’s LHOOQ, Der Da Vinci Timecode questions the conventional reading of classic art. But unlike the nonconformist considerations of Dadaism, Alkabetz uses a more postmodern approach which aims at perceiving a work differently and drawing new meaning from it. One might almost think the moral of Alkabet’z’s story is: “Let us not make a song and dance about the Florentine master, but instead savour his art for what it is. Amen! »

Adi Chesson

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