Spiritual Exercises (1984 - 1998) Olivier Smolders

Spiritual Exercises (1984 - 1998)
aka Exercices Spirituels
Genre: Arthouse | Experimental | Erotic | Short
Country: Belgium | Director: Olivier Smolders
Language: French | Subtitles: English (.srt files)
Aspect ratio: Various | Length: 181mn
Dvvrip Xvid Avi - Various sizes - 29.970fps - 2.71gb

List of shorts: Adoration (15:49) + Mort a Vignole / Death at Vignole (22:38) + L'amateur / The Amateur (26:00) + Neuvaine / Novena (28:43) + Ravissements / Rapture (6:24) + Pensees et visions d'une tete coupee / Thoughts and Visions of a Severed Head (24:40) + La philosophie dans le boudoir / Philosophy in the Boudoir (12:52) + Point de fuite / Vanishing Point (9:55) + L'art d'aimer / The Art of Loving (13:05) + Seuls / Alone (12:32) + BONUS Images amoureuses, images de mort (2:26) 

The easiest way to categorize the films of Belgium writer/director Olivier Smolders is Lynchian, but for most of his work, that's largely inappropriate, because Smolders is more of an intense yet soft-spoken poet who matches introspective prose with stark visuals that often shock, erotically stimulate, and softly lull viewers into a dreamlike state – quite distinct from David Lynch's loopy plays on the boundaries between nightmares and open-eyed reality.

Whether it's the master shots that make up Adoration (1987), his disturbing portrait of a true-crime case of cannibalism (reviewed as part of Cult Epics' Cinema of Death collection), or Smolder's autobiographical Mort a Vignole / Death at Vignole (1998), drawn from his home movies and inspired by a personal tragedy, Smolders maintains compact narratives that aren't indulgent, prolonged, or pretentious, and whatever filmmaking tools he applies – master shots vs. heavy montage, for example – they're appropriate for each film's subject matter, and tone.

Like Lynch, Smolders' characters and observations are part of a customized worldview, but each of the 10 films in this excellent collection are layered poems that demand repeat viewings, since Smolders' sparse prose (all in French, with optional English subtitles) is sometimes more potent than his images, and one needs to re-inspect the images to get the full impact.

Like a surrealist painter, he recognizes that groups of words can create a powerful impact when applied within a specific tempo and when contrasted with seemingly benign visuals.

The concluding gore in Adoration is graphically conveyed in a series of uninterrupted takes, whereas the cadavers near the end of Mort a Vignole collectively arise from their formaldehyde coffins, revealed as anatomy class models in poses not dissimilar from Dr. Gunther von Hagens's plastination poses that showcase the veins, muscles, and minutia of the human body.

Whereas Adoration deals with obsessive love and the fusion of two beings into one, Vignole focuses on family blood lines, and coming to terms with mortality. Smolders mixes colour and black and white home movies with stills from his childhood in the Belgian Congo, and he interweaves moments with siblings to reflections on the death of his stillborn daughter in Vignole, culminating in the black & white footage of anatomy class cadavers.

L'amateur / The Amateur (1997) deals with an amateur photographer's quest to catalogue nude women on film, while simultaneously capturing their vulnerabilities, self-loathing, pride, and contempt for the photographer, often seen setting up the corner where the women will pose, or placing objects in front of the camera as symbols linking himself to whatever theme or personality he's hoping to test. The subjects range from college age girls to elderly and utterly ordinary women, a married woman, and a temptress.

Seeking new ground, he transforms his apartment studio into a pitch black room, and Smolders adjusts his lighting and use of close-ups to emphasize contrasts between each subject who returns for a second shoot. There's an admitted eeriness to the short, but it becomes clear Smolders isn't crafting a thriller about a psycho about to lose control and commit a string of mass murder and/or sodomy; it's basically the lead character's self-reflections on how one's persona affects the physical body.

Spiritual Exercises (1984 - 1998)

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