Our subject strolls along the hills of a mountainous valley with walking stick in hand. He listens to a William Burroughs record in his home, walks along a footbridge at night, driving in silence on a highway. The well-worn calfskin leather upholstery of his vintage Citroën CX Prestige 240 sedan is as handsomely wrinkled as the subjects’ bespectacled face. Details slowly emerge. His love of cars since childhood, and the road trips associated with them. His first memories of Southern Italy and its vivid light; its monuments. He often speaks to the camera in between reenactments from his life and fiction. The story unfolds like a waking dream. Sleep. Sunbathing. Strolling. Pondering. These are the quotidian fragments of each day, even at the petrol stations along various highways.
Always the road and Italy beckons. Like the wanderings found in George Gissing’s By the Ionian Sea. Calabria and Syracuse have their gravitational pull culminated by classical ruins to spur the imagination. In one of his recollections, Meijsing comments on a Norman Douglas book on old Calabria and the stories of its vanished world. That sparked his youthful imagination and grounded his writing as he followed its trail.
In the film lies a subtle interplay between fiction, and documentary realism. The linchpin in the journey is the last standing column in the Temple of Crotone in Calabria. Architectural marvels of their time and thereafter in the epochs, their remnants evoke lost civilizations. This is a marker of Meijsing, his alpha and omega. Everything has come full circle, the end of the road is a new start. He revels in the grandeur of the windswept balm of the intense Mediterranean heat and languid sun. The long shadows cast in late afternoon. The smell of the sea air when the ions crackle in the crystalline light. Does he relive his youthful novel Erwin when revisiting the ramshackle sights and sounds in the off beaten paths of Italy’s small mountainous towns and low-lying villages? As Gissing so romanticized, so Geerten Meijsing has lived it.
This Proustian time lapse entwines itself around the film. They pull all the Meijsing personas together. The memories of outlines, landscapes are unified - and every car he has ever owned the vessels to his adventures. He gets around in style. He has panache, and a thirst for life. He seeks a knowledge out of his time so he goes to visit their monuments. To understand and to understand himself. So Meijsing invented the persona of Erik Provenier to play with alter ego as a device to explore other aspects of his writing. With this in mind, film as a medium suits Geerten’s temperament as he enjoys performing for the camera or confiding some lucid thoughts on subjects and themes. It’s thus a filmic transliteration of a writer who translated Burroughs and Baudelaire.
Along the drive through mountainous Calabria, towards his final destination he finds a muse in the middle of nowhere. She joins him on his journey on the way to a fated destination. Meijsing’s low-key eccentric charm emits moments of pure contentment, reflecting on a life lived in the slipstream of the written word and memory. Thus he takes an elliptic journey between twin poles of present and past, fact and fiction. In the minds eye, life’s fleeting circularity is in the arc of the writer’s solitude and the pursuit of an elusive fulfillment.
Shot on super 16mm (transferred to 35mm) the sumptuous grainy cinematography by Paul Krimmer harks back to 1970’s color films. An atmospheric score by composer Johan Hoogewijs sets the tone for this panoramic lens of a ghostly man in step with antiquity.