MC Escher: Journey to Infinity (2021) Movie Review

The story begins with a deceptively ordinary opening: the standard issue “This is a film about a great artist, here are some summary details of his life and his art”, with some landscape and architectural shots and images of the artist. work of Escher. Then, gradually, he became more and more daring and whimsical, while still remaining in the service of MC Escher, the Dutch designer and engraver whose art became internationally known during the post-war period.

Having forged a style that became instantly recognizable and widely emulated, Escher was a rare artist who managed to combine his influences into something genuinely new. His work is a surrealist geometric / mathematical vision of the objectively perceptible world, but also of the subjective interior, evoking the old Arab-North African graphics; the anti-realistic sensibility of Salvador Dali-Pablo Picasso-Georges Braque of the 1920s and 1930s, and computer models that would not become popular until decades after Escher began his own visual experiments.

Lutz and his collaborators, including a team of graphic designers and animators, bring Escher’s art to life in a surprising and fun way, bringing one of his signature salamanders to life in an otherwise “realistic” setting, then walking through increasingly ‘unreal’ panoramas until we are in an Escher print, to re-imagine intricately patterned Escher works of art so that we seem to slide along, or into them / through them. This happens slowly enough that we can appreciate how skillfully the artist translated negative space into positive space, so as to make the distinction arbitrary: for example, the black spaces between the joined silhouettes of lizards or amphibians. might turn into black birds with white spaces between them, then go back. Or people and animals can move along one stretch of diagonal staircase and then jump onto another, appearing to go upside down or to the side, disregarding gravity, emphasizing techniques brain teasing that Escher perfected.

Lutz and his team found a cinematic equivalent to the movement of the human eye on a static pictorial work of art in a book or hanging on a museum wall. It’s especially good for evoking that “wow” moment when you realize that something you were watching has mysteriously turned into something. another thing. It’s explaining the magic trick without ruining the magic, a magic trick of another kind. This approach is so dazzling that we would have liked the filmmakers to have taken it a little further, deploying it even more often, or in more and more subtle variations – perhaps finding a way to bring the film back to him. -even structurally at key points, or end exactly where it started, so that the project itself appears to have no beginning and no end. (There is a hint to this, but not too much.)

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