(in: Minulost v přímém přenosu. Nová média a národní i osobní historie. Scriptorium, Praha, 2002)
(...) One of the most remarkable pieces of Czech video-art in recent years is the work of Filip Cenek, entitled Po Atentátu (After the Assassination, 1998). The author based it on a two-minute fragment from a film by Jiří Sequens entitled Atentát (Assassination, 1964). This feature film was a pseudodocumentary attempt to reconstruct the story and circumstances surrounding the assassination of the Imperial Protector Heydrich, although it was based on only one of the possible accounts of this historic event. The film has often been shown on television and used as a teaching aid in schools, despite the fact that it is only a variation on the description and account of historical facts.
Filip Cenek chose just one fragment of this film, which he retold in three different ways. In place of Sequens’ original panoramic depiction of the assassins in their room listening to the radio, Cenek used a computer program to explore this scene in far greater detail. His apparently illogical movement within this sequence can be reminiscent of the focused view of an observer who, instead of watching the protagonists, pays close attention to the expressions of the figures in the background; the camera follows people’s shadows, catches minor still-lifes in the tables and cupboards, although the movement also serves to link the perspectives and faces of each of the actors in turn, something the director certainly did not intend. Filip Cenek is trying to explore this film material to see how that sequence, or indeed the entire film, is put together and whether this structure can be subjected to criticism and shown again in a new light.
For several years Filip Cenek has devoted himself to the theory and practice of “non-linear” stories. He is interested in the type of storytelling where the sequence of events is not defined merely chronologically but is created using other keys, which can shape both the author of the story as well as its audience. Similar forms of narration, principally seen in interactive multimedia works, successfully break down the conventions of how we perceive time and our place within it. As Cenek himself concludes, this place cannot be simply deduced in similar works: “This convention (an understanding of time in everyday life) keeps time linear, narrative and with no hierarchical distinctions. It is a convention which defines ‘being’ in everyday life as ‘one thing after another’. Yet from another aspect – such as that offered by fiction – time in everyday life is organised according to different forms of temporality, means articulated through the standard of context and intensification. Time in everyday life and the world is not without distinction and hierarchy – it is textual, it can serve to create boundaries and for the process of interpretation through the delimitation of our experience with these boundaries.”
As he goes on to say, a simple linear and non-hierarchical perception of time would only be possible if language did not exist. Language has an immediate influence on our experience of life and organises it into complex structures. Here we must realise the difference between a system of language and its specific manifestations. Speech itself does not leave any material traces; it only exists in the context of first-hand communication. The appearance of writing, however, leads to a record which now exists in time and is a part of these structures. Film can also be seen as a similar record, which, thanks to new technology, we can fit into dialogues spanning several decades.
The apparently formal exercise here can also have a deeper subcontext: what was the structure of film propaganda and whether today we have the chance to reenter history and try to put it right, or at least offer an alternative viewpoint. (...)
After the Assassination (3 fragments), 1998, video, re-edit, 6:10 min., (QuickTime 7)