Kazakhstan, Kazakh and Russian, 1996, 25 min
Jean-Michel Barjol and Jean Eustache
France, no dialogue, 1970, 50 min
Sudan, no dialogue, 1981, 14 min
Not all latitudes are fortunate for humans. At many, food does not fall from the trees, essentially because there are no trees. Not a single one. South of Kazakhstan, the steppe. A large plain, horizon split in two like on the open sea, nothing blocks the wind. This leads to gags about flying objects and a drunk lamenting because he wants to see the world. Without animals it would be impossible to live, and life is devoted to them. The nomadic shepherds guide them to where the grass grows, which is their paradise. Domestication stupefies them and replaces innate gestures (feeding from the udder) with devices (drinking milk from a pot); this also leads to gags. Sometimes devices do not replace anything, all they do is initiate animals in the habit of work and confront us viewers with the cries of pain coming from a camel who will migrate joined to his owner by the nose, with a new umbilical cord, above-mentioned: that of work.
From the camel who resists the piercing to the pig that resists dying, but, Eustache said, ‘he dies within five minutes, like in a Hitchcock film’. South of France, the mountain. As with the sword fish, several men are needed to match a single pig, to match its size and importance. There was a time when humans hibernated, and each slaughter was practically the equivalent of an industrial counterrevolution. Eustache and Barjol film their own killing without infesting it with rhetoric. Between the anatomy lesson and rituals of the everyday, from the pig-form, step by step, other known forms emerge: the ham-form, the sausage-form… thanks to the skill of a bunch of slaughtermen who never take the ciggy out of their mouth. Do not let the blood curdle, do not let the bile spill, do not let the intestines tear. The meat that is left, no head nor limbs nor guts, becomes abstract, a painter’s theme.
The camel reappears and ascends from supporting actor to absolute protagonist. It has grown; it is, in fact, a dromedary, tall, imposing. And it is a moving character, with long eyelashes and long longings. He works at a sesame mill, blinded by blinkers, he turns and the camera turns, Shaddad mixes his cries with the screeching of the shafts and we realise what this is: hell. During the coffee break, the camel has a lie down and dreams. He dreams of a life of freedom, among his peers; the baby camels feed from the utter. He showcases his camel-like sensibility and his taste for disguise (in complicity with the camera, as there are objective, subjective and complicit shots). Back on the job, he imagines vengeance, our likeness, our brother. We say of someone that they ‘suffer like an animal’ and the animal, as this film proves, is a human when it suffers.