Kivu Ruhorahoza’s feature, Things of the Aimless Wanderer, is a disorientating but strangely hypnotic work of art which relies on a lot of imagination. In his starkly narrated, richly decorative film, a cryptic trio of stories are clearly meant to represent the metaphor between his native Rwanda and the Western world.
In episodic snapshots, a piercingly blue-eyed white foreigner shifts between his roles of explorer and twenty-first century journalist, as he attempts to track down (or pin down) a mysterious tribal woman. Flickering between past and present, the stories are tied together by the ominous, ever watchful eyes of a third, silent figure – a suspicious African man.
In each story, the female figure’s objectification shifts. She is alternately an object of lust, fascination and violence, and possibly the most tangible guide for interpreting Ruhorahoza’s motives (though I don’t pretend to understand half of them).
Against the over-elevated, lofty voice-over of the explorer, which reads like a parody of everything that is wrong about the ‘enlightened’ westerner in search of Truth and Meaning in exotic Africa, the lone woman could be representative of Rwanda itself, and of the result of this Western fascination. She ultimately becomes colonized and objectified by the ways of the West. By far the most powerful aspect of the film is the film-making itself. Cinematography shifts from the voyeuristic to the detached like a carefully choreographed dance. A constant sense of foreboding and an ever growing wall of tension becomes audible in the wailing drones of Daniel Biro’shaunting score, alternately soothing and startling.
There are waves of Terrence Malik in the way beguilingly beautiful backdrops of sepia-drenched, richly verdant landscape bely far seedier hidden depths. The viewer is being deliberately unnerved and unsettled, and perhaps Ruhorahoza is making a point out of this alienation. In an interview, he said: ‘Am I afraid of winning the ‘Most Pretentious Film Award’? Yes, a little. But, damn, it feels good to work on my terms, improvise, dare.’ Maybe improvisation is the key to this film – you don’t need to understand all the complexities of modern Rwanda to appreciate the underlying, cerebral film making at its most transportive.
Things of the Aimless Wanderer is showing at the Edinburgh Filmhouse on Sunday, 25th October at 5:45pm and will be followed by a Q&A with director, Kivu Ruhorahoza
Image: Africa in Motion; Things of the Aimless Wanderer