There’s nothing more fun than stealing the best elements of someone else’s subculture. Not all of us can stomach refusing to wash our hair, wearing long striped socks, and playing the accordion 24/7, but it has it’s moments.
Having said that, a little bit of Steampunk’s speculative fiction goes a long way. Enter director Jarred Alterman’s film festival hot shit dynamo, the 2010 documentary Convento. Filmed in Portugal, this is story of avant garde artist Christian Zwanikken, his family, their works of kinetic art, and the 400 year old monastery they live in. The Zwanikken’s collective works seem to be heavily influenced by Steampunk,while at the same time straying from dotting all the I’s and crossing all the T’s of that rigid format.
There is a visual artistry and sense of timing on display here that is rarely seen even in top level fictional work. It was probably no coincidence that Jarred has done more work as a cinematographer than as a director, because with his intoxicating capture of these animated works, this documentary becomes a piece of art.
You can see the 50 minute version of Convento on IFC or the Sundance channel, and you might be able to get your local art house theater to play the extended theatrical release, which has an extra 18 minutes. Purchasing it outright, sight unseen, wont be any sort of disappointment, as this is one film that will leave the viewer wanting, and wondering, so much more.