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Concrete by Nicole Rose

Concrete, a film by director Nicole Rose in collaboration with jewelry designer Elke Kramer is a beautiful piece. It is shot and edited with great skill (the editors were Ben Trovato regular Ben Briand, and Gabriel Dowrick; see here for Briand’s other work on Ben Trovato), the jewelry is stunning and used expertly – it’s always a challenge as to how to portray jewelry well in a film dedicated to it; the make-up - unusual for a fashion film - is interesting and meticulous, and the score, by Basil Hogias, original as well as eclectic. I particularly liked its simplicity.

The Sydney Opera House – though not as you usually see it portrayed – serves as the backdrop to the piece, with its rough concrete ribs, rectangular slabs and smooth parabolas, and the film itself was inspired by the work and philosophy of architect Louis Kahn, a man who you might say liked to combine extremes.

Kahn did not design the Opera House, (that was Jørn Utzon), but Kahn did create monumental designs using concrete that were highly successful because they also paid no little attention to the human scale of their users. The film’s press release states… “Elke and Rose were inspired by Louis Kahn’s designs and philosophy; the combination of elements to create something greater than they are… .” The release goes on to say “Concrete is a stunning occult poem, a spell of sorts, creating a transcendent story and built by the reactions of its elements, rather than a literal account.” And the film as a whole is spellbinding. The four dark-clothed people bear strange witness to the woman in her almost geisha-inspired settings and the opening sequence is hypnotic.

The story Rose and Kramer have chosen to work with is not an easy one but allows ample display of Kramer’s incredible jewelry. The press release summarizes the narrative…, “A woman summons the mystical powers of the universe to manifest a man, love. Once bound by love she realizes its confines and the pleasure within this…” . Only one small take seems out of place in the story-telling – the caress and the kiss, which seem almost too chaste if they are indeed meant to imply “the pleasure within this…”.

It is a brave director that leaves the viewer in what could be uncomfortable silence but Rose is not afraid to do so. At times all we hear is the rope creaking. The film is also beautifully lit, and, for a film that takes on sensuous dream sequences it is remarkable that so much of it is monochromatic without being shot in black and white. The only color comes from the crystals which invoke the woman’s dream-like change in state and an occasional flash from an earring or ring.

It’s tempting with this piece to ask why Rose and Kramer committed this film to narrative at all when they have such a wealth of art – the opera house, Kramer’s own amazing work, the stunning visuals created by make-up, hair and styling with which to work? Narrative creates interest and draws in the viewer, yes, but sometimes, sometimes, isn’t just looking at glorious take after take enough, especially when the team in place is capable of creating such beautiful sequences (e.g. the two panning shots of the woman’s body, trussed in rope) using lighting, camera and editing techniques? But no, this team proves that it is possible to have it all.

Writer/Director - Nicole Rose
Creative Director -Elke Kramer
Production - Rose Coloured World
DOP - Ross Giardina
Stylist - Jolyon Mason
Designer - Marcella Haywood
Editors - Ben Briand and Gabriel Dowrick
Choreographer - Catherine Doube
Colorist - Craig Deeker
Make-up - Charlie Kielty
Production manager - Kiki Dillion
Hair stylist - Diane Gorgievsk
Rope artist - Garth Knight
Music – Basil Hogias