KYMA – The Power of Waves

KYMA – The Power of Waves

National Film Board of Canada in collaboration with Montreal Space for Life’s Rio Tinto Alcan Planetarium, Canada

Film review by Volkmar Schorcht, Jena

The power of the waves is dissipated in alienation and abstraction.

Length: 27 min

Omnidirectional orientation

Release: May 2017

Waves surround us and are a part of our everyday lives – but most of the time they remain invisible. KYMA is looking at the phenomenon of waves in their many different forms from an artistic point of view. It reflects nature and life through a unique, immersive encounter where visual artists, acrobats, musicians and vocalists interpret the visible and invisible worlds of vibrations. KYMA portrays the universe of waves in a composition of fulldome animations, music and sounds.

The film is demanding – not only artistically and aesthetically, but also cognitively. With graphically subtle alienation and acoustic stimulation it leads from cosmic to subatomic structures and interactions. Between the two extremes we find life. A fairly obvious concept that makes subsequent scenes predictable. However, the attempt to make the invisible visible, the shifting visual layers and abstractions, some of which reach into the informal, make it difficult for the audience to recognize and follow the scientific background. The experimental journey through the universe of waves floods many visitors with obscured connections.

But the film has character. It is full of ideas and inspiration. It transcends physics and biology into immediate perception. KYMA combines the physical nature of waves with life, employing sensual images and sounds.

The music is by far not just background. Music and sound effects promote the visual compositions, cultivate the theme in their own way with variable density and mood. This even creates acoustic vibrations that liberate the energy of the waves.

We are both familiar and unfamiliar with waves. KYMA takes up our sensory experiences. Drops on a water surface create ripples. A spider’s web vibrates as soon as a fly gets caught. Waves are mediators between us and our environment. We can see thanks to electromagnetic waves. Sonic waves cause our eardrums to vibrate, and thus to perceive sound. We feel seismic waves with our feet. But many other types of waves we do not see and feel: gravitational waves, probability waves. KYMA associates them visually as well as acoustically: e.g. the merger of two black holes and sub-atomic particles.

The orchestra provides the framework for the film and builds a bridge to the here and now. Instead of an orchestra pit, the musicians and vocalists distribute themselves in a large hall, filmed with a distortion-free 360-degree camera. However, the intention behind the acrobats with aerial hoops between the scenes is not clear.

Writer and director Philippe Baylaucq breaks new ground in fulldome format with KYMA – the Power of Waves. He uses special camera technology, plays with particle animations and other visual effects and draws on the original sound. While the individual stylistic components have long since established themselves in the fulldome medium, the final composition is new and appealing.

What the whole venture lacks is a brief introduction to the concept of KYMA and its realization for planetarium visitors in order to provide a better understanding and to avoid disappointment.

12th FullDome Festival, May 26, 2018 

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