Henri Plaat

Ten films by Dutch artist and filmmaker Henri Plaat have been digitally restored by the Eye Filmmuseum in Amsterdam.

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Ten films by Dutch artist and filmmaker Henri Plaat have been digitally restored by the Eye Filmmuseum in Amsterdam. The two curated programs presented below offer a cross-section of his cinematographic oeuvre and contain visual experiments and absurdist short fiction films, as well as examples of his lyrical travel films. His work stands out in terms of photo graphic composition, use of light and colour, as well as experiments with stillness, movement and the use of music. Scenic landscapes, the beauty of decay and places lost in time are recurring themes in his work.

The films of Henri Plaat show us a world that is miraculous and full of beauty, but also a world replete with history, traces of the past and memories of war and destruction. He draws from a multitude of sources: desolate landscapes and dilapidated old cities, archaeology, ancient writings, but also pre-war films, film divas and sound recordings. 
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Plaat observes and sees things which for most of us remain unnoticed, but which he translates with his rich imagination into a world of fantasy, resisting the harshness of reality. Free associations between the atrocities of World War II, film stars of the 1930s, and a world in decay go hand in hand with dream-like absurdism and great imaginative power. For Plaat, humour is an antidote to the idiocy of human induced tragedies. He describes his films as ‘atmospheric movies, often photomontages with mixes of war sounds, airplane rumble, Zarah Leander's voice, Wagner's music... all fragments, leading to amazing effects’.

Henri Plaat travelled a lot, to Greece, the MiddleEast, India, the United States and South America. During his travels his fascination began for ‘places of the past’, characterised by decay and destruction. He recorded on film what he saw and edited the silent fragments into pure visual cinema. Like his drawings, collages and gouaches, Plaat’s 16mm films blend imagination with reality.

‘I love the colours of weather-beaten walls, patches, damp spots, corrosion. I think it’s beautiful when damp patches appear on a white wall and layers under the plaster flake loose.’
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Every film stands out in terms of its visual refinement, composition, the use of light and colour and moments of poetry. His films are never narrative, but create a poetic atmosphere of wonder and appeal to the spectator through their playfulness, which is often the result of improvisation and visual experimentation. His editing process contributes to this playful effect, as he often avoided assembling his film on an editing table.

'When I have received everything back from the laboratory, I cut the shots loose and hang them on a large washing line in the room. Then I start moving them, sliding them back and forth across the line. That can take a week or sometimes a little longer, especially if you notice that something needs to be added.’

Henri Plaat (born in Amsterdam in 1936) was trained as a visual artist and created an extremely rich and versatile oeuvre of graphic work, drawings, gouaches, collages and more than forty-five films. He started to make films in 1966, first on 8mm and later on 16mm. His interest in film was strongly motivated by the visual qualities of Kodachrome and Tri-X reversal stocks. These stocks could translate his preference for light, shadow and colour. With the exception of Moroccan Light, which was shot on colour negative, all films mentioned below were shot on reversal stock. When Kodak discontinued the production of Kodachrome in 2009 and the painterly quality of the film stock decreased, Plaat lost also his interest in making films. For the new digital restorations the most original material was scanned.

Program notes by Eye senior curator Mark Paul Meyer
here to access the digital program flyer. 

For more information about the programs:
EYE Experimental, Edith van der Heijde