Thursday, 6 March 2014


The Battle of Alexander at Issus (German: Alexanderschlacht or Alexander Battle) 1528-9
Albrecht Altdorfer (c. 1480-1538)
Do use above link to explore the large image file. This repro has little of the wonder and the distortions of space, time and place within the painting. The spatial paradoxes, anachronisms (against time {out of time}), anatropisms (against place {out of place}) used by Altdorfer are devices that can be taken advantage of in your films. Everything thing happens at the same time in this painting including the future.

'In a landscape created with hypnotic spatial conviction, yet located in a spiralling, outer-space vista of blue and silver sky and sea, a world at once real and bizarrely transformed, illuminated by both sun and moon, and with a classical inscription hanging uncannily in the heavens, two vast armies fight for the future of the world. Uncountable legions fill the rocky plain beneath towering mountains.'
'The picture has a sense of the whole battle, the whole day. Space signifies time. The massive vista gives you a comprehensive vision of it, all its events together which - though not meant as simultaneous - can't help looking as if they were. It's an all-day sky, too. It stretches between moon and sun.
The sky takes up the battle. The arrayed and turbulent cloud formations are forces fighting it out. The heavens join in. It makes the battle look legendary, of historical or cosmic significance, a last battle, a battle for civilisation or the fate of the universe.
The perspective gets more and more historical. And when you get to the great placard hanging over it all, high in the sky, with its flying banners and dangling tassel, you have risen centuries above the fray. You are looking back down on it with the transcending eye of posterity, and the involvement you might have felt when paying attention to its details is now a distant memory, all a long time ago.
The placard's Latin inscription is a tally: it records the enormous numbers of dead on either side. The conflict is fought under the serene sign of history, the outcome known and announced, even as it rages.'
'It is the quintessence of German Renaissance art: every mountain a colossus, every ray of sun an apocalyptic beam of fire from heaven, every cloud a glimpse of the infinite. This is war as unholy spectacle, but where is the humanity? Where is the pity?
"Seriously, old man," says Orson Welles as Harry Lime in The Third Man, looking down from Vienna's big wheel at the crowds below, "would you really care if one of those dots stopped moving?" The multitudes who mass the Alexanderschlacht do not make us care – we do not mind if they stop moving. Indeed, they are not moving: this is a stilled vision, a frozen prophecy.'

Albrecht Altdorfer's paradox landscape
The painting in situ at the Pinakotech
Why Albrecht Altdorfer's masterpiece gives me nightmares
Tom Lubbock

Altdorfer courtesy of Mark Garcia