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William Kentridge «Felix in Exile»
William Kentridge, «Felix in Exile», 1994
Videostill | © William Kentridge


Categories: Film

Keywords: History | Painting | Narration

South Africa | 8' 43" | Director: William Kentridge | Sound: Wilbert Schübel | Music: Philip Miller | Schnitt: Angus Gibson | Archive / Collection: Museum Ludwig, Cologne | 35mm-film

 William Kentridge
«Felix in Exile»

«Felix in Exile» is the fifth of eight films that complete the «Drawings for Projection» series, on which William Kentridge worked from 1989 to 1999. All the films consist of 30 to 40 charcoal drawings, and they transport poetic and political stories. In the process, Kentridge not only engages editing, dissolving, erasing, and overdrawing techniques, as customarily done in most animated films; he consciously uses these techniques as artistic means of expression. While Kentridge develops his filmed stories during the act of drawing, the overworking is repeatedly photographed with a 35mm camera. The charcoal drawing technique allows for a seamless transition from one stage to the next. This developmental and conceptual process, applied in «Felix in Exile,» is ‹documented› in the film’s consecutively ordered 35mm shots. «Felix in Exile» was created in 1994, amidst ongoing public debates on the relationship between the country’s division of ownership and the formation of identity which accompanied the first open elections in South Africa. The film tells the stories of Felix, a man living in exile in Paris, and of Nandi, a woman working as a land surveyor. The woman is Felix’s alter ego. She stands for the longing for one’s homeland, and how for his sake someone bears witness to the incidents in the new, democratic South Africa. No differently than with the fears and memories that flood over him in his room, the world ultimately overpowers Nandi as well—she is shot.
Her many gazes are found in the mirror. The drawings Felix produce flood his sparse room like water, like memory and longing. On the other hand, Nandi is embedded in a cosmic distance that dissipates in the misery of black South Africa. In the topography of the landscape, Nandi’s surveying instruments search for traces of history, for a standard of existence, for a direction.
The drawings and images of Felix and Nandi pile up one atop the other, functioning in both cases as seismographic documents of an emotional shock. The victims of the story are discovered on discarded daily newspapers and written as such into the landscape. Nandi too, finds death. Felix, on the other hand, finds himself once again in the deserted landscape of his homeland, but now with a suitcase full of drawings.