Wednesday, October 15, 2014

About Louis the Filmmaker

I had originally posted this on Facebook to try to educate people a little about Mr. Van Gasteren beyond his well-known Meher Baba footage so many are familiar with. This was intended to also promote the upcoming screening of one of his films. It is my custom not to leave things on Facebook. However, a friend said he liked it and so I have posted it here.

Louis van Gasteren, 1987
A little about Gasteren the filmmaker. Gasteren has several themes that interweave through many of his films. Three of them are the Nazis, LSD, and suicide. Louis has a great interest in the largely ignored children of the Nazis and children of holocaust survivors, a subject other filmmakers have ignored. In his film The Price of Survival, his themes come together as he interviews a concentration camp survivor who was unsuccessfully treated with LSD for post-traumatic disorder, and also talks of the effect this suffering had upon the man's family. He also has union workers interests. Of all his themes, however, one that is most profound is his keen thoughts on the faculty of human perception, and how little most people see. It was this last theme that dovetails into the Meher Baba story within Nema Aviona Za Zagreb (there is no Plane for Zagreb), which he began in 1964. It is his search for what the human being is capable of seeing inward and out that leads him in stages to Meherazad and beyond, applying the fresh new view that perfect sight is humanly possible. Nema is by far his most optimistic and happy film, and in many ways threw Dutch critics off base knowing what to say. No one has explored human misery more in documentary than Louis van Gasteren. Yet here is a partly fictionalized autobiography that brings the best of human nature to the front to eclipse the very worst. Playing a most lovable mad scientist, Dr. Cerillo, as well as himself as the playboy turned seeker, Louis winds up at the end at an impasse of thought that is not depressing -- but oddly open ended and hopeful. In the final moments of Nema Aviona, we come to feel that his impasse is on the verge of a jumping off place, a point much closer to real wisdom than he lets on, and he is still moving forward in new ways. At 91 Van Gasteren is the oldest working filmmaker in the Netherlands. He has won two golden calf awards for his films, of which he has directed some eighty. The golden calf is the highest award the Netherlands Film Festival gives. Van Gasteren is also an artist, and has put on many famous public exhibits in the Netherlands, and is highly recognized in his own country. Gasteren will be 92 in three weeks. Interviewers still seek him out for his thoughts on all topics from art to politics. Books have been written describing his art. Certainly more will be written when he is no longer with us.

Nema Aviona: A 60s era film released in 2012. A young man finishes his masterpiece at 90 years old. The longest film in production in history, beating the Guinness Book of World Records by 18 years. The only commercial feature film Meher Baba ever appeared in. The only color sound film Meher Baba ever appeared in. Shot in ten countries in five languages. Shot by the cinematographer of The Hunt for Red October and Basic Instinct, Jan de Bont. A must-see!

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