Stemple Pass – James Benning

James Benning, Stemple Pass

James Benning, Stemple Pass

A wooded mountain range. On the lower right, half-hidden by a tree, a wood cabin. In the distance the dip of the ridge connecting two peaks. One landscape. Four images. Four seasons. Spring, fall, winter, summer.

Each image inviting a contemplation of the same space. The voice of the artist, James Benning, reading extracts from the writings of Ted Kaczynski, the Unabomber. On hunting, solitude, nature, anger, plans for murder, acts of destruction. He laments the impossibility of solitude in a technological world, extols the plenitudes of nature, lambasts the moral order which refuses him his freedom. After a few brief texts, a contemplation of the stillness of the image without voice. Rains drizzles, a snowflake falls, smoke curls, a cloud shifts, the light dims.

The film is tyrannical, obliging in the time passed in the theater a mediation upon nature, or rather it’s image . Tyrannical, in order to liberate the senses, to make them more aware. The time, the stillness, the lack, all sharpen the hearing, challenge the sight, invite the mind to wander. The forest is less still than it first seemed – two birds flit across the screen, a tree wavers, a wisp of smoke rises. We hear the echoes of shots, the rumble of an engine, the skittering of paws.

James Benning’s voice reunites these fictional landscapes of a cabin in a woods with the words of a man who lived them for 25 years, reuniting his propos with his deeds. There is no longer any separation between the man who killed and the nature which nurtured, nor do his actions nullify his propos. The long takes and suggestive soundtrack raise a challenge: the challenge to see, the challenge to hear, the challenge to think.

Stemple Pass
USA 2012, 121 min
Director: James Benning


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