Two different art forms merge within the moving picture-installation «Sankalpa» created by Kapur and Adjaye: film and architecture. Together, the filmmaker and the architect take on the search for a new hybrid format, rearranging our conventional parameters in which a film is viewed and architecture is experienced. At the end of the 19th century, the first public film screenings in front of a paying audience began. At the time, the hectic moving images of the shortest films (in most cases less than a minute long) simply asked too much of the audience: With the famous «Arrivée d´un train» (1895) of the French film pioneers Lumières – this film showed exactly what the title promised (the arrival of a train) – viewers reportedly left the hall, anxiously concerned that the train might really collide with them in the here and now.
After more than one hundred years, we sit clearly more relaxed in the familiar ambiance called cinema: We have learned, more or less, to differentiate between reality and fiction and to largely control the emotions triggered by the film.
This taken for granted dissociation film viewing in familiar surroundings provokes artists today to come up with new formats involving the viewers more intensively in what they see and encouraging them to become active themselves. With «Sankalpa», Kapur and Adjaye take a step in that direction: The meaning of the film is no longer predefined, no linear story is narrated, the aim is rather to encourage the now respected participants – formerly passive «viewers» – to invent their own stories in the mind, and integrate them physically into the film’s reception.
What does this mean exactly? Firstly: The audience is not left to its own devices, it is allowed to move. Within Adjayes architecture, trying to redefine the cinema as a world of experience, you follow the pictures passing by (en passant): You run after them, are seduced increasingly into the centre of the event. Corresponding to this physical activity, the projected film by Kapur with the telling title «Passage» invites you to be intellectually active: Snapshots from a story follow each other in such a way that the sequence still has to be established in the viewers’ minds.
This is the message: Never trust the author – the film director only presents one possibility of how to interpret the film, build your own interpretation! Deviate! This approach deliberately breaks with conventional attitudes of a constant, passive stream of pictures or music. On the contrary, art is understood here in its original meaning, implied in the Greek word Aisthesis, from which our term aesthetics is derived: perception art.
Whatever is too self-evident we no longer perceive: for example the fact that films should only be viewed on large white walls in dark rooms; and that stories always have a beginning and an end, which are narrated by an author or director in such a way that we find it as easy as possible to understand them.
Adjaye’s and Kapur’s artistic challenge consists in altering our practised ways of perception, rearranging them to make an unusual offering to our senses.
Kapur’s short film «Passage», the filmic part of the moving picture «Sankalpa», plays with the linearity of the film, so that it is no longer clear whether the sequence of scenes choreographed by the director is correct at all. Maybe this story should be told completely differently?
We encounter familiar elements, but in a new context: The Hollywood-actresses Julia Stiles (The Bourne Identity) and Haley Bennett (Music and Lyrics with Hugh Grant) as well as the British supermodel Lily Cole are found in mysterious ambiances, their story remains to be unravelled. The film, however, does not only present things to see, but also to hear: The soundtrack composed by the Academy Award winner A. R. Rahman (Slumdog Millionaire) plays with motifs from different musical styles and cultures. Familiar elements meet with only allegedly known ones, or others that cannot be classified.
Shekhar Kapur’s filmic labyrinth merges with David Adjayes spatial composition and asks us to abandon viewing habits in favour of new moments of surprise. In «Sankalpa», not only images are set in motion, but also the visitor’s body and mind.