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Gerhalter's sermon on Garbage Mountain was first performed in Locarno

Gerhalter’s sermon on Garbage Mountain was first performed in Locarno

Nicholas Gerhalter is the writer of the great picture essay, a filmmaker who takes strong stances that words don’t convey. It is no different with “a matter out of place”. On Wednesday, a new documentary about people and trash celebrated its world premiere at the Locarno Film Festival. It’s a serene and visually stunning look at those places on Earth that are choked with rubbish – from the tops of the Alps to the bottom of the sea.

Nikolaus Geyrhalter, also responsible for camera work on “Matter out of Place,” shows landscapes far from their original appearance in planned sequences that take (minutes) even by his standards. The decline of civilization became the decisive factor here – thus the title, which refers to something that does not belong to the place in question, is almost undermined. It seems that nature can no longer be separated from waste.

Gerhalter’s pictures are visionary and poetic in their power. Garbage itself has already buried itself in our environment. It seems almost aesthetic how plastic is formed on the shores of a mountain lake. However, of course, the remnants of a pariah society do not always look attractive.

Born in Vienna in 1972, he accompanies beach clean-up workers in Albania, photographs garbage sorting stations in Austria, photographs litter divers off Greece or shows in the Maldives how a seemingly inseparable giant palm and litter paradise merged. It depicts a huge landfill in Nepal, where an endless stream of supplies is creating a new mountain on the surface of the world. And excavations in Solothurn that show car tires and plastic bags don’t sleep under supposedly green Swiss meadows, rather than precious humus. Garbage has not disappeared. He just disappeared from sight in this landfill.

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For all the sadness of the subject, “Matter out of Place” doesn’t lack a look at the anomaly that characterizes Geyrhalter’s work—when, for example, a garbage truck is hauled away from a Swiss Bettmeralp hanging under a gondola. And when, at last, the Burning Man Festival in Nevada creates an alternate, almost utopian world in which the desert is cleaned of all human traces with a broom at the end of the event.

As always in the works of Nicholas Gerhalter, “Out of Place Matter” explains nothing. The film allows situations to stand on their own and reveal their impact. It is a poetic approach that meets the viewer at eye level and shows him how much we have already irrevocably changed the course of the world. This is nonsense.

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