Review: Tesaurus (2020)

courtesy of Doclisboa

Let me start the review of the newest poetic short documentary by Marko Grba Singh, Tesaurus, fresh from its world premiere at Doclisboa (section Movements) with a word of advise: when outside, keep your dog on the leash. Because you never know what could come into its mind, like escaping, roaming freely and letting its apocalyptic thoughts play.

That would be, in short, the idea behind Grba Singh’s film, actually framed as a film within a film, with Visions of the Apocalypse by Tesa the Dog occupying the “inner circle” and the most of the 25 and half minutes runtime. The clue is already given to us in the “upper” title, Tesa is the name of the dog, the “-saurus” stands for dinosaurs, the victims of the original apocalypse. Another clue is given in the more conventional intro part of the film that walks along the lines of an observational documentary. While taking Tesa for a walk, the recently separated couple Cristi and Simona sit on the stairs in front of his building and their conversation ends up in the apocalypse territory. Finally, even this year seems apocalyptic and serves as a suitable pretext.

Once Tesa is off wandering and the second title is shown in heavily edited, almost negative colours, the story starts wandering freely from place to place mimicking the stream of consciousness. There is an abandoned large structure from the socialist times on the top of the mountain, there is a night ride through the streets of Kuala Lumpur, there is a Halloween party somewhere in Eastern Europe where Aerosmith’s Dream On is sang in karaoke, and there are shiny commercials on video walls in the city centre, selling the sheer idea of consumerism. The apocalypse has to be global, before we get back to Tesa and the thoughts she barks being subtitled for us to understand.

Grba Singh and his crew played with almost every aspect of filmmaking, making Tesaurus one of the most complex shorts of the year, topically and technically. However, there is a sense of rawness in the footage, sometimes approaching dangerously close to the home video territory, and the same can be said for the striking, sometimes counter-intuitive sound design. We, as the viewers, basically wander in the dark, together with the dog and the “cast” and crew, until we reach some brief shiny moments that might as well prove to be meaningless if we care to realize the bigger picture on the cosmical level. Tesaurus is piece of wisdom from out of this world.

Runtime: 25’ 31’’
Countries: Serbia, Romania
Languages: Romanian, Sign Language, Serbian, English
Directed by: Marko Grba Singh
Written by: Marko Grba Singh
With: Tesa, Cristi Calinescu, Simona Mantarlian
Cinematography by: Tudor Platon, Stefania Grigorescu
Editing by: Jelena Maksimović, Mina Petrović
Sound design by: Luka Barajević
Sound recording by: Liviu Cristian Gavrilet, Dragos Margineanu
Colourist: Ivan Marković
Produced by: Stefan Ivančić, Ana Radulet
Production companies: Non-Aligned films, UNATC
Supported by: Film Centre of Serbia, Faculty of Dramatic Arts