Review: Flowers Blooming in Our Throats (2020)

IFFR Tigers Short Competition Selection

still from the film

In hard times, like both of the COVID-19 lockdowns, some rituals keep us afloat and relatively sane over the course of empty days. But what happens when those rituals become violent or abusive, towards ourselves or towards the others we share the household with? Are violence and abuse also rituals, existing for the sake of repeating? Are rituals inherently abusive and violent? Those are the questions the Belgian-Italian filmmaker Eva Giolo tries to compose and phrase in her dialogue-free short experimental documentary Flowers Blooming in Our Throats that had its world premiere at the Ammodo Tiger Short Competition of IFFR.

Filmed in Spring 2019, during the first lockdown in Brussels, Flowers Blooming in Our Throats is composed entirely of short takes, usually in close-up, of people whose faces we rarely see, performing repetitive actions. Some of them can be described as productive, like kneading the dough, unpacking the groceries and cutting the fruit. Others are meditative, like whirling the tern. Some indicate some self-harm, like pinching oneself on the skin, while the others require a partner, like a game of red hands. The line between harmless and dangerous tends to be very thin and the viewer’s perception often depends of the filmmaker’s manipulation: if the lens is coloured red, a ritual, a game or an action might seem violent, even if it would not seem so if the image was plain and natural.

The people featured in the film are clearly willing participants in the experiment in which they follow the filmmaker’s tasks and “orders”, so there are no ethical concerns here. Even the actions they perform can be observed as ordinary and not particularly abusive. The hint of violence comes from the alternations between the natural and the coloured imagery and the quick, sharp cuts in the editing dictating the pace and the sense of unpleasantness. On the other hand, there is also some beauty in that all, like the warm colours and the granulation of the 16mm stock and the sound design full of the natural and the “neighbouring sounds” coming from others apartments or maybe even gardens, performing their own rituals while the life was put on hold.

Runtime: 8’ 37’’
Country: Italy, Belgium
Language: No dialogue
Directed by: Eva Giolo
Written by: Eva Giolo
Cinematography by: Eva Giolo, Eva Claus
Editing by: Eva Giolo
Sound design: Simonluca Laitempergher
Colourist: Lennert de Taeye
Executive producer: Leonardo Bigazzi
Production company: In Between Art Film
Co-production company: Elephy