Zu Früh, Zu Spät
movies that are difficult to find and there are those that are downright
impossible to track down. I was unable to buy, stream, or even find a dodgy download
of “Zu Früh, Zu Spät” (“Too Early, Too Late”), and this might have been the
first movie on the List that I would have had to skip. Then I discovered that
the Cinematheque in Copenhagen would be screening it twice here in October, the
first time being last night. What are the odds? It has been a terrible weekend,
my wife and I have been following the news constantly since Saturday morning,
so I was very close to cancelling the movie, yet it turned out to be exactly
what we both needed.
“Zu Früh, Zu
Spät” is a strange movie. 60% of the very brief Wikipedia entry on this movie
says: “It is a sequence of shots of rural landscapes [in France] accompanied by
readings of texts about the struggles of poor farmers, followed by another
sequence of shots in Egypt.” And that is basically it.
are long, sometimes static, sometimes a pan and, in the most exhilarating
sequence of the movie, ten or so turns around Arc de Triumph in Paris. Nothing
really happens in these shots, but they are long, some of them excruciatingly
so. I find myself focusing on a bird passing from one side of the image to the
other or the slow march of clouds across the frame. In the Egyptian part we
also get a ride along a dirt road in the style of those Norwegian movies where
they just place a camera on the front of a locomotive and let it film for
much ties the images together, they are just scenery. In the French segment a
heavily accented narrator reads excepts from what may be a census of poverty in
France in the eighteenth century and at times we recognize the village name on
the images so it is presumably a list of how many poor people lived here 200
years earlier. This is also the only connection between the images and the
pictures. As these places are presented today (or in 1981) they are idyllic,
even charming, and ancient poverty levels is my last thought looking at these
pictures. I am thinking: vacation!.
Egyptian segment the disconnect is even more pronounced. Most of the images are
of rural Egypt and while they are not as idyllic as the French images, they
look like something out of National Geographics. Meanwhile, the narrator, with
very long breaks, talks about a history of revolts and how they were put down
from the Napoleonic era and until the fifties. In a last clip, we are watching
a general (presumably) giving an untexted speech in Arabic for a few minutes
after which the narrator mumbles something about that the new rulers betrayed
the popular movement that brought them to power.
I am having
a hard time associating the title with anything I watched, expect that the
French “story” takes place a few hundred years ago and the Egyptian is more
To me, it
felt like a couple of hours browsing Google Street View and the radio going in the
background, doing some dull political story. It sounds immensely boring, and I
suppose it is by any standard, but it was also incredibly relaxing, and we did
have some good laughs afterwards. Quite a relief after a stressful weekend.
this movie was quite an attraction. I think there were three or four times more
people in the cinema than when we watched Golda a few weeks ago. Some of them,
I am afraid to say, were snoring.