Director: Henri Storck
Time: 11 mins
Eye of Sound: A landmark in the history of moving images, Scenes from Ostende is one of the most beautiful and less surrealist films by Henri Storck. Which need not imply any form of cinematic realism. Quite the contrary: Storck's camera and editing aim at pure constructions of rhythmical and visual abstraction, both gradually unfolding as the film progresses. There is at the same time a documental aspect to Ostende, with clear temporal and spatial borders, and with a thematic focus that excludes the whimsical, symbolic or aleatory imagery associations that characterize much of the early surrealist cinematography. Ostende ("east-end") is a port-town in Flanders, washed by the cold waters of the North Sea, and Storck proposes a documentation of its landscapes and argonauts: thematically organized in six sections, the camera elegantly moves from the port and anchors to the wind, the dunes, the foam and, finally, the North Sea. Composed in 2008, Brackx's soundtrack closely follows the rhythms and kinetic waves of the screen and offers a different movement for each of the film's chapters. Each of these sections seems to offer a commentary on its corresponding theme, forming a parallel narrative in which the North Sea is presented as a release from land and its anchors. The more abstract, "free" and moving sections are those on foam, wind and dunes, while the anchors are given an almost lugubrious tone by its stark, mechanized strings. Finally, the longest section, comprising almost half of the film, focuses on the North Sea and reprises the opening section on the port: Mondelaers sings a beautiful poem in which the sea is said to be "more beautiful than cathedrals" and to offer a "death without suffering". Brackx thus captures and underlines what seems to be the latent signification of the images' poetic progression from land to sea - a creative interpretive gesture that is not only rare in scores for silent films but also, I believe, tremendously accurate.