Memory and cigarettes in difficult 'New Age'

Dave Jaffer
Dave Jaffer - [email protected]
Memory and cigarettes in difficult 'New Age'
A still from the film New Age.

Keren Cytter’s ‘New Age’ is one of the more memorable films you’re likely to see at CPH:DOX, but perhaps not for the best of reasons. It’s elusive and inaccessible at parts, so much so that it’s possible to exit the theatre with no real understanding of what you’ve just watched.


Strictly speaking, ‘New Age’ is not a documentary. It’s closer to docufiction, or experimental film. It features actors playing roles. Four different actors play the main character, Daphne, at different points in different storylines. All of the storylines intersect, if only vaguely.  
Certain plot points in the storylines are more major than others, such as when Daphne and her friend Mirjam hitchhike to “the big city” to see a concert, or when the military has to quell a riot. The way these events are introduced is awkward, and the way they overlap even more so. 
The film is essentially a series of vignettes, all of which end with something happening to a cigarette (it gets lit up, tossed away, or crushed underfoot). Each vignette relates to the larger collection of plots, and each of those has a relationship to a broader theme. The most noticeable of these themes is memory. The various vignettes feature remembrances of people and recollections of experiences; the forgetting of seemingly insignificant details; keepsakes from sexual conquests; and the spectre of Alzheimer’s Disease. 
In writing this review I’ve attempted, however feebly, to dissect ‘New Age’ and show it as a series of component parts: actors; storylines; intersections; plot points; overlaps; vignettes; and themes. ‘New Age’ feels like a film that was assembled rather than made. I don’t mean this as a judgement or a compliment, merely as an observation.
Inaccessibility is perfectly fine. We should be making , watching, and championing films that don’t speak down to audiences. But there has to be an entry point, and at times during ‘New Age,’ you’re left thinking that the film has room for everything except for its viewer. 
Dave JafferDave Jaffer is The Local's arts and culture writer. He has contributed to countless publications, including Hour, Spinner, Reader's Digest, The Huffington Post, and Exclaim! Cyberstalk him on Twitter at @combatdavey


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