Lago Film Festival Review: Riverbero

In an image-dominated world we’re trained to see objects, not to hear them. Riverbero (Dir. MyBossWas, Italy, 2013) takes a stance and proves texture is sonic. The smoothness of a leather sofa, the soothing sliding of a double pane glass, the tickling in your fingers when acknowledging the fridge brushing against the wall – sound turns tactile from the very first shots. Yes, we are shown mere objects, yet their effect is synaesthetic.

Merging video art and documentary, abstraction and mathematical precision, Riverbero stands out as a „border film”, crossing over media to celebrate both the sound of architecture and the architecture of sound. Experimenting formally, the film is a non-narrative triptych – a formalist poem to become a performance, a performance to shape into a documentary. Its core subject revolves around the Meteorological Research Institute in Turin and its almost-ethereal reverberation room.

And though it does not have a narration, it does have an easily understandable structure – it carries the audience from an exterior layer of the urban space to the reverberation chamber, then right into the very core of its scientific explanation. It’s like eating a peach, if you may. A peach more rectangular than round, though, for Riverbero is peculiar in its poetic language of geometry and its celebration of squared-shaped architecture.

We’re faced with a series of desaturated facades. Angled shots reveal angular spaces, sharp lines symetrically divide stark-naked concrete. It’s rigid, gritty, yet eminent. Backed by a block-structured Philip Glass-reminiscent piece, featuring an unearthly-spine-chilling choir, a kind of pagan religiousness is inflicted upon the architecture. We see solid concrete, but we hear space. 

Paradoxically, spaciousness in music is only to be bred within a sealed ambit – the reverberation chamber. Waves dripping, lungs tripping – a human-musical-installation performs in the chamber, while we’re bathing in a sea of sound, which is both elevating and tactile. It’s an acoustical experiment reminding of Alvin Lucier’s I’m sitting in a room, a 60s attempt at recording the pure resonance and frequency of a defined space.

In Riverbero things do not happen, only senses merge. That is up to the point where the film reveals itself as a documentary and not a visual poem, causing a rupture in the musical chronology of its narration. By abruptly ceasing the music, the adrenaline-inducing-rhythm, the viewer is cut-off, suspended to a flow of scientific data, the interview with the chamber’s engineer. Yet, conceptually wise, the film’s concentrical structure does function – it cracks the peach’s kernel to reveal its core. Deconstruction disconnects the spectator, but is this harmful? We’re rarely aware of sound in cinema, or in architecture, or even in our own houses. Once the mystery of cinema is revealed, we can rationalize and re-think our position in the space we inhabit.

Review by Maria Cârstian (Romania)

Cineuropa Shorts, in collaboration with Nisimazine and Lago Film Fest (which ran this year from July 24th - August 1st), offers you film reviews and interviews made in Lago by Nisimazine’s team of young journalists.

02 October 2015, by Cineuropa Shorts