The New Exhibition

"At a museum, a man looks closely at a painting."

The New Exhibition is an exceptional short film by French artist Jonathan Djob Nkondo about a man who steals a painting from a museum. The film plays with basic elements from filmmaking: representation, framing and staging, which fuse, fold and decouple continuously. A wall becomes the frame, then folds and becomes a wall plus part of the frame, or two frames, or even a rotating siren. All while maintaining temporal continuity. The codes established by the film are also played with, in one instance a character reaches from one frame to the other.

Two main characters are located in a museum (urban staging), the film features an external conflict, a chase, a crime theme and a focus on art and representation. The aesthetic is highly stylized, with minimalist representation, a desaturated palette and combines 2D and 3D elements (in some sequences it alternates between 2D and 3D representations of the same element). Its constant use of reframing results in playful creation of offscreen space, which the artist employs creatively, too. The isometric reframing also resignifies shot sizes.

Two cuts, one at 2.17 and another at 2.21 (plus one at the ending credits). The rest of the editing is handled through transitions, which function both as a replacement for cuts and as elements of staging. The transitions add to the visual rhythm and perform a kind of choreography. Visual rhythm is handled mostly though these transitions and motion within the frame, complemented by sound.

What makes The New Exhibition work so well? Exceptionally creative aesthetic and staging, imaginative way of playing with basic elements of filmmaking, fun reflection on art and representation, constant surprises and well constructed conflict with high tension. It’s one of those mindbenders which filmmakers will especially enjoy, but which also have the ability to be highly appealing to a general audience.

A final note: according to the director, the dot at the bottom of the painting that shows up towards the end of the film means that the painting has been purchased (after it was broken in two and put back on exhibition).

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