The Waste Land
Feature length documentary, scenario & directed by: Chris Teerink
April is the cruelest month: with this sentence begins the poem that has been hardwired in our collective imagination since its publication in 1922. It has influenced people as diverse as Bob Dylan, Doris Lessing and Francis Ford Coppola and it is considered the most important poem of the 20th century. Even though nobody can say for sure what it is about, the poem remains central to our cultural world.
It is A multi-voiced multiverse with both western sources and references to Buddhism and Hinduism. Chris Teerink translates this complexity into a cinematic experience by using photographs as a concentrated form of time – analogous to Eliot´s poetry that is a concentrated form of language.
And like the poem, this film is eclectic. Since 2020 Teerink has been traveling: From the original London Bridge that Eliot walked on and that now stands in a desert in Arizona, to an abandoned, dystopian city in Cyprus. He encountered people who reflect upon the poem and its relation to our world. From Indian ecofeminist Vandana Shiva who says that the four-dimensional causality is the only way to understand the world, to economist Guy Standing who talks about basic income as a way avoid a new fascism. Their ideas are accompanied by an associative flow of images, sounds and music which function not as illustration for the conversations but rather as a separate voice.
Since Teerink started his journey, the world has become more uncertain than ever. This makes The Waste Land even more fitting: “It is a confusing poem and a poem about being confused, about disorientation.” The film reveals that our world gradually became like the wasteland of the poem. But the film also offers other ways of seeing the world and dealing with its problems.
The film ends where the poem ends, on the banks of the river Ganges. We fail to understand the last words of the poem ‘Shantih, Shantih, Shantih’, but sense that a meaning exists. The film leaves it to the viewer to determine what that meaning is.