In the year of homage to Henri Cartier-Bresson, it is good to be reminded of other great observers in the art of photography, such as Georg Oddner, Sweden. First of all he deserves world recognition for some astonishing documentary photos from Russia after the Second World War.

Tue Steen Müller
Previous founder/editor of the DOX magazine.

Presence

Jan Troell

Sweden 2003.

Like Cartier-Bresson, he trusts his intuition and wants to catch the moments of magic before returning to the darkroom to find the story. Like the credo we have heard time and again from film documentary icons like Leacock, Pennebaker and Maysles: direct cinema is about being there and filming. Seeing what happens. Discovering the story later on. The intellect is the enemy.

The film about Oddner, which takes us to the US where he earned a living as a fashion photographer and to the Russia and Estonia of his childhood, a slightly traumatic past, is a film for all documentary addicts. It is light in tone, and Oddner expresses his view of the world lucidly and thoughtfully. He never goes for the exotic, he is constantly searching for the universal.

But the film is first and foremost more proof of Jan Troell’ s enormous talent for working with documentary material. Oddner is a friend of his and they share a lot in terms of vision and method. “Let life’s own compositions talk,” says Oddner, while Troell and camera look at and read his still photos on our behalf – and make personal photographic observations. One of them will be a classic: an almost Hitchcockian scene where Troell follows a young couple in an office building across from the window of his hotel room. They talk, they move around, she is about to leave, she does not leave, she stays. It’s all about love. Life talking.

Jan Troell

There are harsh social pictures, and there are pictures from Hiroshima and Vietnam. The film is moving, yet playful and joyful at the same time. Oddner acts in sequences in front of the camera of his friend, who accompanies him with fitting music, making the film a dialogue between the subject of the film and the man behind the camera. Sometimes the latter literally takes over, like in a(nother) love scene from a metro station where a young couple kisses. He freezes the video picture so it looks like it could have been taken by Oddner.

In an interview, Troell agrees that the film is a homage to the photography made by Jan Troell with Georg Oddner playing the lead. A story that goes from clips with Oddner as a jazz musician in his youth till today where he and Troell still look for the wonder that happens when a photo emerges in the developing bath.


-
SHARE