Testa supplements Karl-Heinz Klopf´s distinguished film portfolio of architectural portraits with yet another premier structure, namely Argentina´s National Public Library designed by Clorindo Testa. This mega structure made of concrete already constituted an anachronism back at the time of its opening in 1995: Its design dated back to 1961 but construction only first began in 1973. And so it is that this piece of convoluted architecture exudes an atmosphere thick with a sense of different eras. Seen from a Latin American perspective it represents an example of "Brutalism with an Argentinian accent", while for many interested Europeans it realizes the bold dream of an inspired, exemplary late modernist architecture.
The film conveys much of the fascination inspired by the design of the building. Initial images show a grey, relief-like structure interrupted by a raised rectangle enclosing a smaller rectangle, leaving in doubt what is being depicted. Gradually it becomes clear that the camera has captured the underside of a building as it moves forward one shot at a time. The narrow perspective does not change throughout the course of the film. We never see a complete "building". Through Piranesian bridges, shafts, stairwells, and shadows we discover a convoluted, labyrinthine structure from which we cannot free ourselves – we are trapped by the meandering movement of the camera. A shift from black and white to color coincides with a change on the soundtrack: While the first part of the film captures authentic traffic noise in Buenos Aires, including the irritating barking of a dog, in the second part we hear details about the history of the building from the perspective of its various users. The extraordinary uniqueness of Testa is its conceptual decision to convey such an opulent filmic subject through narratively unspectacular individual features. Unaided by a long shot, the building as a whole is left abstract to the imagination. (Patricia Grzonka)
Translation: Eve Heller
Documentary, Short film