Night Sight 2019

Dance Your Fear! Dancing with fear in my eyes

(Markus Keuschnigg, curator)

Christoph Schlingensief called them the “fear monopolists”, those who preach down at individuals from their political pulpit on what they should be afraid of. (Migration! Migration! Migration!) “Every person has a right to their own terror!” was his answer in the form of a spiritual axiom at the Church of Fear he erected at the Art Biennale in Venice in 2003; a tenet shared by this year’s selection for the Nightsight. This scattered thunderstorm of fear in our hearts and minds must not be abused by the few for their preservation of power. Only when every person reconquers their own individual terror, embraces and celebrates it, “dances” it, then the revolution can begin.

As is so often the case, the beginning is a cinematographic one: five different ways of looking at European Fantastic Film give just as many worlds of fear. A young man with Iraqi roots is radicalized by an increase in racist assaults in the very near future, and lets himself be turned into a teen assassin by fearmongers, hoping to overcome a complex problem with a simple solution. There are many good reasons why Ulaa Salim’s provocative feature film debut Sons of Denmark is this year’s Nightsight opener. It throws multiple punches into the collective gut, and postulates a universal uncertainty as the new panEuropean attitude towards life.

Fear is also rampant in rural Ireland: a young single mother drifts further and further apart from her little son whose character shows increasing signs of transformation. When something so close to us suddenly turns strange, there is no running away or losing your mind, all you can do is gather all of your strength, regain control of your fear, and face its roots: in the case of this excellent horror thriller, it is the eponymous Hole In The Ground.

But what if there are no other people left to be frightened of? What if you have to fight for your survival under the most adverse circumstances while in absolute isolation and without any form of help? In Joe Penna’s (almost) silent survival drama Arctic, a crash-landed Mads Mikkelsen is left to his own devices in the icy wilderness: with its ninety minutes, this cinematographic extreme experience is an extraordinary example of contemporary Cinéma Pur.

The antithesis to this comes around the corner in the form of a neon Giallo that already carries its most important hallmarks in its name: Knife + Heart by the unabashedly talented young Frenchman Yann Gonzalez dives into the Parisian gay porn scene of the late 1970s where an acclaimed director played by Vanessa Paradis is hunting down a serial killer who is decimating her troupe of actors, while simultaneously using this savage reality as a basis for her next productions.

And then there is that nursery rhyme that eats itself deep into the souls of the characters (and the audience) in Johannes Nyholm’s nightmare Koko-di Koko-Da: crawling out of the dark forest come grotesque creatures of darkness, dancing, laughing, killing, and always falling back on singing. Every means of escape ends in death, only the confrontation with the harsh reality can bring relief and holds the seed to live on. For this film as well as for the entire Nightsight program (and for a general betterment of the world) this must hold true: do not run away. Stop. Turn around. Look fear into its eyes and then Dance Your Fear!