Signs of Life
Playing on the overlaying of two images inhabited by clouds, Ascent opens with a dreamy atmosphere to which the film holds tight like a precious legacy, because the challenge of making a film only out of stills depicting the world’s most celebrated mountain is no small thing. The photographs are balanced by the outline of a narration about an ascent of Mount Fuji.
Fiona Tan draws on a dual narration, by a Western “her” (the director herself) who sets the themes and a Japanese “him”, to whom she entrusts the memories of the climb. The interplay between the resonances of the voices has illustrious precedents, which the director does not hide. But Hiroshima mon amour is just one of the many pieces that contributes to composing this fascinating mosaic, able to change aspect with the speed of a shutter click. Against the background of the snowy-white mountain peak flow the images of other “mountain films” and even the monster Godzilla. In reality nothing flows and everything stays still, even if just for a few fractions of a second.
It is precisely the journey in time that is the most fascinating thing about this project: the fragment captured forever by photography must reckon with a narrative that the editing renders fluid. The images advance one after the other like frames returned to their fixed-image status. And seeing the film go by one almost has the illusion of being able to rest one’s gaze on each of them.