Thuistezien 145 — 11.01.2021
Perhaps, under normal circumstances, a 2:36 minutes long rather mundane scenario of a family eating a meal around a table would seem a bit monotonous but it is not the case in Reynold Reynolds video The Drowning Room from 2000. Filmed entirely underwater, this above-mentioned occurrence turns obscure and the constant, yet subverted struggles of the actors gives a feeling claustrophobia – a feeling which only intensifies as the scene folds out. The simple task of eating pasta becomes an uncomfortable, almost unbearable event to watch and it is soon obvious that the painful experience derives from watching the characters who are persistent in acting out everyday scenarios in a highly obstructed environment. As more scenes with arguably insignificant scenarios follow, a classic melodrama narrative starts to take shape, with the actors determined to enforce communication and expression in a clearly unsuitable environment. They are, perhaps, avoiding their most crucial dilemma; that they’re situated in a drowning environment.
The submerged audio of the video at one hand makes the viewer aware of the actors’ underwater surroundings but increases the surrealistic atmosphere. A persistent and encompassing clock-like ticking runs through the entire video as a heavy rhythmic beat. The submerged noise is sometimes assisted by effect sounds, such as a fist knock, almost as a naive attempt to make the events more believable but, plausibly only amplifies the bizarreness of the scenes.
In The Drowning Room Reynolds make the viewer aware of the limited frame we tend to understand reality which is a reoccurring theme in Reynolds’ works. With the simple but significant alteration of reality in The Drowning Room, the context of reality becomes a medium to explore through his science-like work process to precisely reveal an underlying causality. Nonetheless, it is the captivating beauty of the slowly progressing video that stays in the mind and, as Sundance Film Festival wrote about the video in 2000, transforms these mundane moments into dynamic poetry. A kind of poetry where words are redundant.
Text: Rosa Zangenberg