Never Going Home
They are set up. They wait. They approach the target. They circle it, they appraise it. They look at each other. They are strangers in a strange land. Never Going Home is a film about a forbidden form of self-expression. Yet graffiti is barely the theme. The film has a clear plot: it is the story of a woman, a man and the pursuit of a singular artistic achievement. The spectator is a witness and a partner in crime.
First there is the rhythm, brought on by light and a constant movement — the city lights, shining above all, are intrusive and dominating as if they were the artfully constructed lights of a grand movie set. But we are not inside the comforting world of norms, but strictly in the marginal. Here the ordinary is meaningless. Everything is here and now — we enter the essence of reality — but none of this would make any sense through someone else’s eyes. Where are we and why? The filmmaker Sauli Sirviö allows the mystery to remain for a long period. The actual country where the events unfold is revealed to the witness only after the first piece of art has been created.
We are shown a Japanese news broadcast explaining a painted train, effectively the mass media point of view where a spectator of Never Going Home is described as a master criminal under police investigation. The act of painting itself has been an attack and an assault. The artwork created is something that cannot be even shown in this television broadcast. It can only be described thru words – heard in Japanese, translated in English – and we are told it is absolutely incomprehensible. The executors of this act are about as relatable in the news cast as true space aliens. These are the sentiments expressed in the Japanese television broadcast, and the alienation concerns both the protagonists of Never Going Home as well as the spectator of the film.
The elements that violently separate Never Going Home from the status quo of the graffiti film are a straight forward narrative and the unusual decision of leaving the act of painting unseen. Sirviö gives us the location, the perpetrators and the arousing feeling, but deprives the spectator of the chance of witnessing the act itself. Traditionally graffiti films demonstrate a masculine work process in pornographic detail. This work is about the reality before and after the act itself — artists in motion. This is why the protagonists, the couple who cannot go back home, are as if they were the heroes of a romantic thriller. While not a word is expressed about feelings, the protagonists reveal their inner life in detail. Their playfulness together is a mirror of the middle class rituals performed in millions of homes in order to control ordinary lives. Small moments tell us of the life that is and the life that never will be. Before they go to sleep, they prepare a makeshift bed of blankets and a light travel mattress — as if it were a real home for a moment. There is no other way of existing than this life in perpetual motion, and there is no reason to say it out loud.
Sirviö’s sympathy for the couple is there not only to lure us into their fascinating and exciting life. It also entices us into the criminal act. The spectator of Never Going Home will be a partner of crime, desiring to be there. Never Going Home is as much a meta story as it is a story of two outlaws. It is about gaze. We look at the couple aiming at their target, which we never get to see. The decision of how what to think of their actions is ours to make. While they at first seem free, the camera makes them our inferiors as their dead end is revealed to us.
We cast our eyes on the manner the Japanese mass media regards the artwork, it’s frills and colours. We enjoy knowing more than that dumb gaze. The protagonists look at each other lovingly, but never show their real feelings. Avoiding the emotion is part of the tension. Would we want to be part of this endless journey? They have become free of the desire to become. They have accepted the perpetual motion. Really, have they? A horror sneaks into this romantic thriller. Never Going Home is a revealing film about things that cannot be presented.
* HAM, Helsinki, Finland, April 6th-September 9th 2018
* #Viralvandals, MU art space, Eindhoven, Netherlands, May 5th-July 2nd 2017
* 1984 EVOLUZIONE e RIGENERAZIONE del WRITING, Galleria Civica di Modena, Italy June 24th- September 18th 2016
* Never Going Home, Helsinki Finland SIC, September 15th–October 7th 2012
Duration: 33.30 min
Technique: Full hd video
Filming Location: Japan (2011)
Film crew: Sauli Sirviö, Lasse Järvi and Henrik Haavisto
Cast: Jim Clay Harper and Danielle Bremner
Text: Kalle Kinnunen, film journalist, author and critic