MAXIMILIAN LE CAIN IN 'EXPERIMENTAL CONVERSATIONS' - ISSUE 12, AUTUMN 2013
Alan Lambert has eloquently described his visionary micro-budget sci-fi feature 'The End Of The Earth Is My Home' as “a film flipped on its back, wearing all its subtexts and stylistic devices on its sleeve with the main storyline submerged“.
This follow-up to his labyrinthine masterpiece 'Ouroboros' is nothing if not an intensely lyrical work. Like Ouroboros, it draws on footage Lambert, a magpie of images, shot while globetrotting. This time, however, it is not presented in a fragmentary fashion but put in the service of a single narrative, a new version of the Monkey King story. Luminous, glistening Asian and Egyptian cityscapes are intercut with Australian skies and Dublin studio scenes to forge a compellingly coherent Asia of the mind. Actors and spaces are caused by editing to confront each other over vast geographical distances in a style reminiscent of Othello-era Welles.
This almost collage-like technique is particularly appropriate to a film where space is so explicitly subject to the forces of time. On the island of Hai-Wan, where the film is set, there are three distinct time zones: one at the top of a skyscraper, the dwelling place of immortals; one at street level; and one in the sewers. Narrative elements are allowed to drop into these space-time configurations and the ripples caused on impact are what constitutes the film. Very much a sensory rather than narrative experience, Lambert’s baroque vortex of imagery and tripped-out visual rhythms (abetted by European Sensoria Band’s fine score) play at accelerating, decelerating and even suspending plot points.
This multiplicity of rhythms and zones is mirrored in the fine and deliberately diverse group of ‘types’ Lambert assembled to people his patchwork universe, performers whose backgrounds are usually in a form of performance other than conventional acting. Several languages are spoken, often within the same scene, and there are barely two accents alike. French Dominique Monot engagingly chews the scenery, Howard Vernon style, as the head of the immortals; Japanese Junshi Murakami is charismatic and contrastingly enigmatic as Monkey. Egyptian-born Mona Gamil effectively links these characters, while Fionnuala Collins, as the police chief, proves with a vengeance (as Lambert drolly notes in an interview) that Hollywood cops are Irish. Performance artist Vicky Langan is memorably imperious as the goddess of death, a sort of avatar of Cocteau’s princess from the underworld.
The End Of The Earth Is My Home questions two of what are generally considered givens of cinema, one of how films are experienced and one of how they are made. In tapping his source material for such an enchanting series of sensory fugues, while disabling any sense of conventional narrativity, Lambert implies that we already know the ‘story’, that on some level we are so familiar with the figures he presents us with that there is no point in yet again going through the three-act motions. What is important is the cinematic energies that they can unleash. This is a particularly pertinent stance to take with science fiction, a genre that claims to exist at the far limits of imagination, yet has actually seldom claimed the poetic liberty this could entail. The other challenge is to how films are made. Now engaged in another ambitious science fiction project, Pushtar, that will again be made on a tiny budget, Lambert is a director whose use of inexpensive technologies and much imagination seems to allow him the freedom to make films that on paper seem to require considerable budgets. And to make them his way, giving free rein to one of the most unique and fascinating sensibilities in Irish cinema.