Mushrooms and Cinema

Alejandro Bachmann

A slow glide over an interwoven and proliferating mycelium, which becomes more visible here and there, disappears into blackness every now and then. Cut to the starry night sky over the forests of the Carpathians: The detail, the subtlety of the structures, their minute progress and the big picture, the map of the constellations, an overview. The first two shots of Bernd Schoch's Olanda introduce the dimensions to which the film will devote itself in the next 154 minutes by focusing on one of the area's central seasonal assets - the mushroom. The mushroom foragers search for them in summer and autumn in this landscape. Sometimes they get up at 3 o'clock in the morning and after coffee and cigarettes, packed with backpacks and plastic buckets, they traverse steep mountains and climb into the woods in order to find them under spruce needles and root wood. They are, amongst the humans, the ones who are nearest to the mushrooms and it is to them the film will return over and over. In between, it follows the rhizome-like structures from the mushroom to the foragers and further afield, sprawling and intertwining: to small, local traders, who buy the mushrooms, and not a minute later, sell other products to the foragers and thus receive back a part of the money. Mushrooms turn into money, and money into cigarettes, coffee, soft drinks, batteries, spark plugs: in a gamble among colleagues, in purchasing religious services from local clerics, at the improvised shoe market on a forest clearing, in the dispute with the wholesaler, who does not see his own pricing policy, criticized by the foragers, as his responsibility, and who uses the unwillingness of customers to pay, in Germany and elsewhere, as an excuse and thus brings the off into the film. In the extensions of the fungus mycelia, which outgrow that which is visible in the film, the capital market, outgrowths of an economic cycle and class relations, become visible. The mushroom spreads itself over the world as food and means of payment. Olanda does not only tell of these proliferations, but as a film it takes on this shape itself, branches out, appears in surprising places but never loses its central idea.

A softly rasping voice appears again and again, blankets the images, sometimes seems to take on the perspective of the mushrooms. In this way, they themselves become a discernible character, an equanimous and yet critical, sublime yet empathetic and assignable entity. Through it, the fungus gains a consciousness that thinks about itself and its immediate environment, and at the same time also has knowledge of larger - economic, geological, historical - processes, which it partially co-creates and has been a part of for centuries.

When the film in the second half, set in motion by a repetitive and yet shifting synth composition by Pete Kember, ostentatiously turns to the mushroom as an intoxicant, something is being formulated here which Olanda always carried within it : beyond an analysis of economic structures, the film is also the document of a rhythm of everyday life in the forest, immersing itself over its entire duration in a movement in space and time, which only the foragers in the utilization chain can really know and which only Cinema can potentially open up for others. The evocation of a daily routine that the film knows not only to interpret as a sign of exploitation, but in which it discovers beauty, being awake in places and times that allow for a different perception of the world. The climbing of mountains and the thwarting of forests, is not simply portrayed as crunching drudgery but is made perceptible as an extremely physical, sensual contact with the world. A nature that it does not conceive of as romantic wallpaper, life beyond technological alienation, but as the real and yet unreal space of altered consciousness in which you encounter the crackling and blood-red burning fires in deep night; the quiet and yet heavy falling of raindrops on resonating surfaces; and the bending and then breaking of branches through stray sweaters, in the form of cinematographic perceptive and sensual enhancement.