Autobiography and biography merge in this often shattering, sometimes absurdly funny collaboration between two polymath artists, Douglas Gordon and Jonas Mekas. Gordon’s unlikely desire to bring Mekas’s prose memoir of his first decade in exile from Lithuania and journey from post-WWII displaced persons camps to New York, where he finds his vocation as a filmmaker, yields an operatic experience of sound and image. The film—which features Mekas reading his own text in haunting, musical voice-over—attests to one extraordinary man’s experience of loss and desire to make a new life, yet also resonates as a tale of the diaspora in which tens of millions exist today.
I HAD NOWHERE TO GO is a story of escape and survival from one of the countless displaced people after WWII. Narrator and subject Jonas Mekas‘ voice is heard over a predominantly black screen. Yes, that’s right. The majority of this 97 minute film is in the pitch black. Literally echoing with Mekas’ stories, mostly in diary entry, skipping around in time and location, we are treated to intimate stories from a man who experienced the tragedies first hand. It is a completely immersive experience. Your senses are thrown for a loop. A story will begin and then in the brief silence, the jarring sound of bombings and music clash as an entrance of a new tale. There are perhaps only 8-10 clipped video images in the entire movie; beets, potatoes, apes and nature. Otherwise, it’s akin to being in a planetarium show. The film might do best in a museum setting where patrons can wander in and out at their leisure. I, for one, was truly fascinated at the format and structure and thought nothing of exiting the theater. It’s a bold choice and one that will change your view of what constitutes a film.