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The Great Wall
“A cage went in search of a bird”, goes the aphorism by Franz Kafka that opens Tadhg O'Sullivan's film The Great Wall. Quietly paced and with a haunting imagery, the work explores Europe's ongoing barricading.
The Great Wall starts its journey across Europe at Bulgaria's south-eastern border, showing along the way the many walls that today determine its political landscape. There are all sorts of different walls; walls in the literal as well as in the figurative sense. They range from the barbed wire fences that serve to repel the refugees arriving from the southeast, up to the glass giants of political and economic power centres like Brussels and London, which proclaim their message of expulsion less visibly but just as forcefully. O'Sullivan ties his exceptionally beautiful cinematography to Kafka's text The Great Wall of China; the images and words are accompanied by a precisely crafted soundscape. Like Kafka's text, this essay film obtains its persuasive force by abstaining from any statement. Instead, it shows the walls as a quasi-concomitant phenomenon of the will to maintain a certain power structure. Yet, the source of authority of such a structure remains opaque. The filmmaker translates the almost organic quality of Kafka's "Great Wall" into lucid images as if it were part of a continuous nature; only now and then one gets a glimpse that its purpose is to seal Europe off from people who try to enter. The necessity of this barrier is asserted and it is to be believed without ever clarifying its sense: a wall went in search for an enemy.
Tadhg O'Sullivan is a filmmaker, editor, sound designer and sound recordist based in Carlow, Ireland. His work has been regularly supported by the Irish Film Board and the Arts Council of Ireland. In 2015 he was recipient of the Arts Council's film bursary.