The Pyramidical Silence & The Perpetual Progeny

The Pyramidical Silence & The Perpetual Progeny

Two short films by Anders Elsrud Hultgreen: The Pyramidical Silence (2012) & The Perpetual Progeny (2015)

Here is a paradox: precisely what all of Yasujiro Ozu, Woody Allen, David Cronenberg, David Lynch, John Waters, Peter Greenaway, Wong Kar-wai, Hal Hartley, Tim Burton, Roy Andersson, Wes Anderson and Paolo Sorrentino have in common is also what distinguishes them, in that these are filmmakers whose works are instantly recognisable as their own for being so very different from anyone else’s (including each other’s). Although he occupies a more rarefied, marginalised niche than these, the same might be said of Norwegian filmmaker Anders Elsrud Hultgreen, whose curious body of work comes with its own highly idiosyncratic style and preoccupations. You can see it instantly in his two features, Dawn (Morgenrøde, 2014) and Devonian Fever Trip (Devonsk Febertokt, 2019), both of which take real if desolate natural landscapes, and transform them, through colour filters and spare narrative elements, into alien (and alienating) spaces.

Hultgreen is an artist of wastelands – and of literal waste in his more recent shorts Hospital Dumpster Divers (2020) and Septichexen (2023), taking place respectively in a hospital’s decidedly un-sterile backrooms and incinerators, and in the labyrinthine sewage system beneath a city. Yet before those, two other shorts perfectly laid out his distinctive style.

* * *

The Pyramidical Silence & The Perpetual Progeny
The Pyramidical Silence (2012)

Opening with a quote from Job (14:18-19) comparing the gradual erosion of the Earth to the destruction of human hope, The Pyramidical Silence (Den pyramidale taushet, 2012) invites viewers to see in its barren volcanic landscapes a metaphor for seismic shifts of a more psychological variety. Here we see a billowing eruption, rifting laval rock formations, and bare cliff faces eroded by running water, while Hultgreen himself, in a whispered voiceover, describes, “in the farthest fringe of the Primordial Abyss, an apparently lifeless planet, surrounded by an ocean of emptiness.” 

This narration serves to defamiliarise the very real, earthbound locations that we see into zones of ancient myth, science fiction and the eschatological imagination, while the intrusive appearance of scientific apparatus, and even of two persons (Leslie Horn, Åge Kjølås), is reconfigured in the voiceover as evidence of alien life. Here we are the visiting organisms, just passing through a planetary ‘Colossus’ with a much longer life span that is calibrated by the slow movements of the Earth and of the cosmos.

In the film’s middle section, a mobile shot rushes through a mined tunnel – and if it has all the appearance of an endoscope moving through a body, that is because Hultgreen is collapsing the distinction between the biological and the geological, while suggesting that both are subject to similar entropy and decay, only on massively different timescales. It is a grandly sobering perspective on not just the tininess but also the fleeting ephemerality of our species when measured against mountains and eons. Like the Biblical quote with which this short opens, Hultgreen’s synthesised choral score only adds to the sense of the numinous.

* * *

The Pyramidical Silence & The Perpetual Progeny
The Perpetual Progeny (2015)

The Perpetual Progeny (Evighetens avkom, 2015) plays a similar game, while removing every last trace of human presence – even the voiceover, here replaced with the written word. This landscape is a mountain forest shrouded in mist and smoke, while an on-screen poem conjures a mother goddess, “a shapelessness” invisibly embodying the spirit of “eternal change” which is also visually encoded by the ever-shifting clouds of vapour.

Ethereally scored by Ole Petter Sørum, this is a study in motion and stillness, showing us one world while evoking another in parallel to it, hidden “in a negative space incomprehensible to the eye”. Accordingly, like all Hultgreen’s works, The Perpetual Progeny prompts us to look at our environments in new, non-anthropocentric ways, while situating them in the mythic space of cosmic horror (indeed the short is dedicated to H.P. Lovecraft).

strap: Landscape artist: Anders Elsrud Hultgreen’s experimental short films locate apocalypse and cosmic horror in the Norwegian hinterlands

© Anton Bitel