William Kentridge Artist From South Africa Film Studies Essay

Modified: 1st Jan 2015
Wordcount: 953 words

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The sixth film in serious Drawings foe Projections was the History of the Main Complaint which was made in 1996. This film was made before the True and Reconciliation Commission hearing began. The plot of History of the Main Complaint was about a businessman named Soho Eckstein who was a wealthy white man living in South Africa. He was lying on the bed surrounding with doctors to discuss with his injures at hospital because he had a car accident. He was just an empty shell without his identity. William Kentridge was sending the conflicting message of the struggles that people were facing with in South Africa in that period. It was manifest that all of the conflicts made people sufferings were taking away of their true identities.

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In this History of the Main Complaint film, William Kentridge drew some x-rays pictures with objects to illustrate Soho’s physical injuries and emotion. The main point of these x-rays explained explicitly that Soho’s body and mind are occupying with these materials. These objects include manual typewriter, adding machine, telephone, ticker- tape machine for stock market information, seal press embossing, and a cup of coffee. The x-rays are showing purposefully every object in the central of picture and it represents respectively his whole career milestone in business to be a metaphorical key history event at his country. For example, there is an old- fashion electronic volt generator which symbolizes his struggles with other politicians during apartheid- era in South Africa and a bottle of shaky ink is representing how people view government’s unstable system of policies in South Africa. Both of them are in control of the apartheid regime for around forty years.

The film of Felix in Exile, which was the fifth film in the serious Drawings for Projection made in 1994, was focusing on the history of South Africa. The plot of the film was about an African American woman, Nandi, who was a land surveyor. She was a representation of the homeland. A man called Felix who was living in Paris in exile. The drawings in his room were being covered by the floods which were indirectly as memories. In this movie these two characters were interacting with each other about changing the situation of South Africa’s society in long distance. Nandi changed Felix about the sense of self identies and through Nandi’s eyes show Felix was looking forward to his country and seeing a new, democratic revolution about South Africa.

The film of Felix in Exile used the technique of photographing each drawing. This was a long process of re- draw the same drawing over and over again to draw, erase, smudge and redraw. The reason why he used this kind of technique was because it created sense of movements in the film just like telling a story through stop motions. It showed impressively the audience of time and change, especially about history and fading memories.

History of the Main Complaint and Felix in Exile were both animated films. Animated films were made by stop motions. William Kentridge used the technique of drawing a lot of prints and made them into a film in order to tell stories without any narration or oral communication; however there were sounds and music to help the audience feel the emotion that William Kentridge was trying to express through his animated films. These two films were basically black and white stop motion drawings with some pop colors, such as red and blue. The stop motion was a very unique way to tell stories by using effectiveness of moving images. The red and blue colors used in the film had symbolic meanings, too. Blue was associated with peace, waiting, hope, and sorrowfulness. In “History of the Main Complaint,” a pail with blue water was placed in a corner close to Soho’s bed in the hospital. Here, blue water symbolized redemption and hope. It had never been touched or removed from the room, and had waited quietly for the awakening of Soho. In “Felix in Exile,” red color was used extensively in Nandi’s depictions of landscape. The places where the corpses lay, as well as their wounds, were marked clearly in red. Red symbolizes blood, wounds, and death. For example, when Nandi was shot down on the ground, the blue water flowing down from the faucet turned red. It was a declaration of Nandi’s death. The dark red blood flowing out from the old wounds of the unknown corpse was a silent narrative of South Africa’s violent history.

Analyze the ways in which Kentridge’s use of themes and formal techniques complement and or conflict with each other.

Kentridge examines the people who live, records evidences that happened, and his personal life in Johannesburg-the city where he was born, lives and works. The animated films of Felix in Exile and History of the Main Complaint are two films about the darkness of South Africa. Through the use of visual symbols and metaphors, he intends to present complicated human situations. On the one hand, he purposely leads the viewer to analyze symbols and metaphors in his films to provoke their emotions. He used the technique of photographs taken after each erasure and redrawing process to impress viewers and truly expressed his feeling towards the country history at that time. These films are not only pieces of artwork, but also are addressing the struggles that people have experiences in South Africa.Ultimately, the reviewers have found the objective position that the Kentridge has taken and the hidden meaning in his works. His animated films are now some significant artworks that highly influence the modern art industry.


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