PURE KINETIC MOTION
Routemaster – Theatre of the Motor consists of strobe-like, fast-flickering shots, and grainy, monochrome images of speeding rally cars. While Pohjola’s Asphalto was still concerned with human interactions, here the absence of humanity is total (only the cadavers at the end signify that there has been life, of some sort): what remains are the machines in movement that is an end in itself. The rhythmic structure is provided by slow-motion, close-up shots of checkered flags, repeated at regular, mathematical intervals, with passing shades of blue providing almost the only color in the film. Shaky, hand-held cameras and split screens are used, with occasionally mosaics and repetitions of the checkered flag theme. At times, the accelerating speed of the images makes it painful to watch the film, like a sort of visual Blitzkrieg waged on the human nervous system through the viewer’s tortured retinas. The whole watching experience becomes increasingly fragmented.
Routemaster is a textbook example of pure kinetic motion: we can actually see the movements as horizontal lines, like in the old Mic Vaillant comic books about the world of motor sports or, more recently, Japanese Manga. Everything becomes blurred, the speed itself numbs our senses as the images turn into ever more splintered abstractions of thousands of little mosaic frames. Then, another color comes in, when we see the yellowish images of masked cadavers behind the steering wheel, in a reference to controversial crash tests carried out using human corpses. Most disturbing are the rapid close shots of bare feet hanging like those of a crucified man. Everything becomes totally abstracted, until the final shots return to the moving roadside images of the beginning. Then comes the final freeze frame: the end of movement means death, and we, the spectators, become the corpses on the driver’s seat.
The different sound mixes make the three versions of Routemaster slightly different experiences:
The Original San Francisco Mix by Jim McKee, Wieslaw Pogorzelski, Merzbow & NON: drone sounds from beneath which a factory rhythm is constantly about to emerge, quietly sinister and slowly accelerating to crescendo. Flute-like, violin noises are heard, like extremely controlled feedback. The violence is there, but somehow kept at bay. For now, at least.
Tokyo Noise Mix by Merzbow starts as a violent assault and an insistent, unceasing machinery rhythm. The screeching become more dominant all the time, like desperate brakes trying to prevent a collision, but knowing that all efforts are ultimately futile. The crash is imminent, it is only a question of when. Finally, it all breaks down into the sounds of chaos, which somehow sound strangely structured. In fact, it all seems premeditated. This may be some sort of carefully arranged and planned religious ritual, enlightenment through blinding of all the senses. Absolutely sublime. Absolutely beautiful.
London Dance Mix by Lee Digi-Dub: The soundtrack consists of sampled (and possibly also computer-generated) sounds of rally cars, their engines and carburetors, beneath which pounds a sort of a meta breakbeat/drum’n’bass rhythm. The soundtrack moves on like a well-oiled engine, until finally only the sound of roaring cars is heard to start up again, now with the bass drum sounds played backwards over the rhythm track, but retaining their slickness.