CELLS is a sticky and quirky documentary film about a simple man with a far from simple plan. Dutch-Belgo Martin Uit den Bogaard (67y.) is one of the world’s top 10 bio-artists.
Martin’s quest is to get his hands on a new human body part to use in his work while he wrestles to obtain the rights to his own body for his ultimate and final piece, after his death. It is his personal struggle, since our body becomes state property when we die.
Martin Uit den Bogaard illustrates through his work, not that there is life after death - but rather that there is life in death.
Safely encapsulated within glass shrines, decomposed tissue taken from animals, plants and even humans generate an energy which the artist converts into images and sounds using electrodes, voltmeters and computer equipment. The physiological and mineral processes suggest the never-ending whilst nonetheless dependent on time, motion, temperature, humidity and light. By isolating the pieces from air and bacteria Uit den Bogaard slows down the disintegration process and attempts to postpone the inevitable decay. To Martin, everything is matter. All matter is continuously moving. But what about intangible things like our soul and our consciousness?
Devoid of religious intentions, the film challenges the viewers' feelings, their moral compass and their ethical beliefs. Uit den Bogaard's works alienate through straddling make-believe and reality, art and science, taxidermy and bio-energy-manufacturer, at once the biologist and the electrician. Death is a part of life. Dying is nothing but a transformation. The long coercive power of the images of Martin's estranged world are shot in a super macro mode and force the viewers to see the beauty of decay and waste. Tainted prejudices are upturned, the universal taboo is broken. Nature feeds itself. Vita mutatur non tollitur (Life is changed, not taken away).
But will Martin get a new human part to use in his work? How can his wife, Dutch Icon and painter Phil Bloom and his friend-colleague Aldert Mantje help him? Martin & Aldert are competing, not only with the Law, but also among each other. One is older, the other is younger but a vigorous alcoholic. Will Martin show up in his final & ultimate work after his death? Does Uit den Bogaard breaks through the surface of his own skin-deep philosophy? Or is it just too simplistic?
This contemplative but humorous documentary confronts us vigorously with our own private life and mortality, the western taboo of death.
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