(Denmark 2020; Dir: Stefan Kruse Jørgensen)

A Lack of Clarity

Reframing the Framer

review by Leonardo Govoni

A Lack of Clarity

length: 23

year of production: 2020

country of production: Denmark

director: Stefan Kruse Jørgensen

sound: Asbjørn Derdau

music: Asbjørn Derdau

festivals: Internationale Kurzfilmtage Winterthur 2020, Glasgow Short FIlm Festival 2021, Go Short 2021, Vienna Shorts 2021, FILMFEST DRESDEN 2021, Short Waves Festival 2021, FeKK Ljubljana Short Film Festival, Festival du nouveau cinéma 2021, Istanbul Experimental Film Festival 2021

© images: A Lack of Clarity (Stefan Kruse Jørgensen)

Las Vegas. Sin City. A place that has come to represent the nest of contemporary capitalism, the pinnacle of neoliberal practices. Built as a place to be consumed and immediately left, rather than to be lived, Las Vegas is a city in which consumerism is celebrated and lionised at expense of anything else. Its buildings, streets, corners mimic those of other cities giving life to a postmodern space that functions as an echo of the real and in which the hegemony of the market reigns over anything else. In this endless flow of glittering materialist excess in which spending money is the only given possibility, there is no room left for thinking, pausing, or even sleeping. Caught into this perpetual capitalist turbine, how often do we reflect upon what we are leaving behind and sacrificing in spite of this roller coaster of vacuity and entertainment?

By rearranging found footage material recorded through thermal cameras placed in Las Vegas, Stefan Kruse Jørgensen’s ‘A Lack of Clarity’ stimulates a reflection in regard to the progress, expansion, and implications of digital surveillance technologies. In its own nature, this experimental, essayistic, documentary work reframes recorded (or even stolen) images of us to unveil how controlling mechanisms have become so embedded into contemporary society while still remaining almost invisible to us. It asks its viewers to connect those images of surveillance to what lies at the core of the society we have been shaping and inhabiting.

From its first beats — through its images, pacing, texts, and intimate voice-over — ‘A Lack of Clarity’ establishes an ongoing personal dialogue with its spectators, trying to depict a portrayal that goes beyond the mere surface. Yet, before speaking to the spectator, the filmmaker speaks to himself. Those images captured by thermal cameras erase any distinction between light and dark, between day and night, and they metaphorically connect to the state of sleeplessness, characterising the modern human condition and more specifically the filmmaker’s own. Watching those grey images and how they destroy any relation with time perception, Jørgensen seems to be drawn into the same endless and sleepless nights that more and more have become part of his routine, and of ours as well. As his sound-distorted ruminations whisper into my ears, I ask myself if this overly connected society has transformed sleeping and absence into a sin.

What is left is an endless dream-like state in which we flow around unconsciously, but in which the barriers of privacy have become almost entirely blurred. In those new and artificial dreamy and sleepless spaces, each movement is tracked, each body temperature is scanned and each face is recognized for the sake of consumption. In this matrix of surveillance, we cease to be humans. From figures made of flesh and blood, we turn into tendencies, parameters, and numbers that can be analysed, exploited, and consumed. Sleeping then becomes a sin precisely because it represents the last terrain to which companies have no access to. Yet, by always remaining in the background, Las Vegas reminds us that even this last sin can be redeemed, even sleep can be erased, and full control can lastly take place.

‘A Lack of Clarity’ goes beyond unveiling and questioning all this. The unique cinematic experience crafted by Stefan Kruse Jørgensen is so layered that the spectator is constantly triggered and never annoyed. The film immerses us into experiencing and feeling the state of blindness and confusion by which we are surrounded and towards which we have somehow lost clear sight. Through its slow-paced editing and a sonic landscape made of drone electronic pulses, the film is turned into a means for awakening us. It shakes us from a state of dizziness to shed light on the invisible and imperceptible images that inhabit our everyday life. It faces us with the ubiquitous images of control that the simultaneous progress of digital technology and surveillance practices have injected into the modern urban landscape.

But this obsession with surveillance is actually not something new. As the film points out, this fetishism traces back to older centuries, to the moment in which cities started to be artificially illuminated. It is precisely this longstanding tradition that has led to accepting dichotomies that we should theoretically assume as incompatible, making them so embedded within us that we stopped questioning them. Being monitored, being framed, being observed, being scanned, being surveilled does not feel as something imposed, nor as something invasive to our privacies, because we have been told those practices serve something more important: protect us. But protect us from what?

In and through the often blurred and slow-paced images of ‘A Lack of Clarity’, we have come to question if there’s any perceived distinction left between security and terror, between control and freedom, between dictatorship and liberty. But even more, what is the line between all those almost incompatible concepts? Who does trace this line? And for what sake?

This text was developed within the Talking Shorts Film Criticism Workshop during FILMFEST DRESDEN in July 2021, with the kind support of International Visegrad Fund, Deutsch-Tschechischer Zukunftsfonds and Landesdirektion Sachsen.