Moving Pictures

When he died in January 2001, Johan van der Keuken enjoyed international fame as an unconventional documentary-film maker from the school of Joris Ivens. But his writings on these subjects are just as important and revealing as his films and photographs. Van der Keuken was in the best possible position to know how practical circumstances help to shape a film, and, as a writer, he had the gift of putting that into words.

Johan van der Keuken
Original title
Bewogen Beelden

In Moving Pictures, a large number of his articles, interviews and columns has been brought together. Van der Keuken writes on both his own work and that of others, and invariably about the political and cultural context in which a film maker has to operate. In his reflections, moral and political questions merge smoothly with his analysis of film-making practices and his exciting gift for reading and analysing images.

Van der Keuken is not without self-criticism. ‘How could I possibly have known all this?’ he wonders when, towards the end of his life, he looks back on the political certainties his films reflected in the seventies. Even so, he never abandoned his political commitment. With impressive simplicity he tells an interviewer about his experiences in Chechnya – where he filmed surrounded by snipers – demonstrating how the beauty of the pictures highlighted the nastiness of the deaths they documented. Over the years his ability to capture unpretentious moments in films and photographs and to endow them with significance increased even further. His often succinct newspaper columns are masterpieces of visual and verbal acuity. In much the same way, while writing about the editing of his own films, he lets slip almost casually the secrets of the language of films and of a well-told cinematographic story.

Thanks to the many photographs and film sequences included in this book, Van der Keuken’s arguments are easy to follow. Moving Pictures is not simply the commentary of a film maker on his own work, but an integral part of that work. It is a monument to one of the most important twentieth-century documentary directors.

In 'The Lucid Eye', the sequence of images is more important than the images themselves which never stand alone but are part of a story. (On The Lucid Eye)

Het Parool
Johan van der Keuken
Johan van der Keuken (1938-2001) took up photography at an early age; in 1955 he published 'We are 17', the first of several albums of photographs. In 1956 he enrolled at the Institut des Hautes Etudes Cinématographiques in Paris.
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