The other side
Sarah Struss | The Other Side, 1 August 2017
A barely audible, gentle melody resounds, and a solitary candle bathes an almost empty room in dim light with gloomy shadows. As if written by an invisible hand, the words ‘Night Time, Hans Op de Beeck’ appear on the screen. The more than 19-minute-long animated film ‘Night Time’ (2015) by the Belgian artist Hans Op de Beeck (*1969 in Turnhout, Belgium) presents nearly 65 black-and-white watercolors that are partially animated and add up to constitute a tacit, mistily mysterious video. This filmic journey through his oeuvre features tranquil, mysterious motifs with deserted scenes, occasionally populated by anonymous nocturnal figures, always melancholy and highly atmospheric.
The powerful visual concept combined with music by the Belgian musician Tom Pintens, composed especially for the video, carries the viewer off into the uncanny, fictitious shadow world of ‘Night Time’. The impact of this dreamlike albeit artificial world also results from its origination process. Op de Beeck produced the monochrome watercolors at night in his studio for six years. The seclusion and darkness of his working hours directly translate to the film noir-like scenes and cause the nocturnal solitude to become nearly palpable.
Hans Op de Beeck is considered an artistic all-rounder - he is a painter, director, set designer, author and composer. His oeuvre combines melancholy, atmosphere, and the will to reflect man-made solitude in works of art. His relationship to the theater, above all to stage design and directing, is time and again plainly visible, which is also the case in ‘Night Time’. Many of the motifs presented in the film resemble establishing shots, mostly wide shots that show the viewer where and when the upcoming events are taking place. On the other hand, other scenes feature close-up shots of alleged protagonists and props. For the visitor, the opening scene of ‘Night Time’, the abandoned room bathed in candlelight, establishes the nocturnal yet fascinating seclusion full of shadows and secrets and at the same time the reduced, reticent formal language, which allows the film’s recipients space to develop the motifs themselves.
Hans Op de Beeck occasionally provides an indication of possible storylines; the fish swimming in an aquarium follows the cat cocking its head, a man paddles his small boat across a mist-shrouded lake. However, for the most part the story is told between the lines, without a definable beginning and end. Nightlife is in hiding. The fluid transitions that develop by superimposing the motifs make it easy for the viewer to step into the film, to track the events, and at the same time to bring his or her own thoughts on stream. The even rhythm of the soft musical accompaniment and the slow animations evoke a calming, meditative, and above all hypnotic effects viewers and allow them to wander through their own reveries and their own subconscious. As is the case in Alfred Kubin’s novel ‘The Other Side’, the recipient is carried off into a magical dream realm, free of boundaries; danger and darkness are communicated on a subliminal level. However, the video does not end in a nightmare. The candle in the deserted room, night’s last lights, burns out and permits the viewer to return to reality.