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Nummulits

Isaki Lacuesta


Albeit not a sequence shot, the structure of this black and white silent video is the simplest possible. Proof of this is the lack of breaks in the inferior time code. And yet, the inner course of the recorded material, although also in linear sequence, introduces different moments of the author’s stay in Gerona. Following images of religious processions, with people in ancient roman and religious garb, we see shots of the film crew conversing in a canteen, night time test shots in the streets of the old town (an expressionist backdrop, with dramatic lighting), and a tourist visit during the day followed by night time shots of the city (light tests at night appraising the quality of the black and white image). The white shot at the end reveals that what we have seen are the rushes of material not yet edited.

“The short films that Isaki Lacuesta has produced after Cravan vs Cravan portray the most absolute of abstractions and constitute a meditation on the ultimate condition of the act of observing. At this point, the question seems self-evident: what are we referring to when we speak of observing without intervening?” (Josetxo Cerdán, Documental y Vanguardia, 2005)

Nummulites nummularia is a single cell organism with a shell that once inhabited the underside of rocks. It was very small and and was protected from the outside world by a calcium based shell. There must have been great quantities of these organisms because they have left important fossil sites, one of which is located in Gerona. It also defines the town’s rock. With the passage of time, these same organisms, weaken the rock and turn it more sensitive to the erosion caused by the water. Nummulits is a medium length film that Lacuesta recorded between January 2002 and the summer of 2004 at the time that Gerona’s cathedral was being restored.

With this piece Lacuesta continues his experimental research on the quality and characteristics of the image. Whereas in Ressonancies magnetiques he explored the concept of image-sound, and in Microscopías he focussed on its physical composition, in Nummulits he investigates the first primal moment of the image (and not of sound), the rush, and integrates it into the history of film, with past and present conjoined. The video acquires the appearance of a 1960’s film student’s documentary material before it is edited, as shots are repeated incorporating small variations in order to be able to choose the best of them. This is another scientific experiment of trial, error and rehearsal.

The beginning of the video resembles a 1940’s film about the roman empire. It is silent, in black and white, and with visible cuts in the film between the different shots. It clearly emphasises the epic quality of the referenced films. The parades and processions are recorded with a static camera, and they give the impression of a loop, as we always seem to be watching the same people passing in front of the camera. The night time shots of the cobbled streets turn Gerona into the backdrop for ‘The Golem’. Dark streets, filmed with repetitive and mechanic turns of the camera, like a tasting exercise, tests and shots to choose from, give us the impression that the camera has a life of its own. The piece resembles a historic tableau in which time is slowed down by repetition (as in the impressive dance of the spears). In the shots of long shadows on the town’s wall, the film is close to Welles’ ‘Chimes at Midnight’, although it also reminds us of ‘Nueve Cartas a Berta’ by Patino, Buñuel’s ‘Las Hurdes’ or ‘Tierra sin Pan’, or Val del Omar’s light compositions, with lack of sound adding on extra tension. This film is a tribute to the first amateur filmmakers. According to Lacuesta, this is “a ghost film recorded on the limit, where it is impossible to distinguish between the light of dawn and that of night, water and rock, voice and silence, at the dark confines of light where nothing reappears anymore”. The constant time code, contradicting what is shown on screen, restores reality back: this is a 21st Century video.

This piece demonstrates that film, just like Gerona’s rock, carries with it a history of secrets that lie hidden and in permanent contact under the film strip. “When rain falls on the rock, at that unique instant when Nummulits seem to become alive and move, despite the fact that the price we have to pay for this feeling is to become weaker, to realise that disappearance is nigh.”

Technical datasheet

  • Title: Nummulits
  • Direction: Isaki Lacuesta
  • Production: 2002.
  • Duration: 00:18:30
  • Formats: Betacam Digital - DVD
  • TV systems: PAL
  • License: Copyright