Feature film Angela’s Diaries is an exploration of cineasts Yervant Gianikian and Angela Ricci Lucchi’s lives and work seen through Angela’s eyes.
A few weeks ago, while browsing Tate’s website, I came across an event that caught my eye: Yervant Gianikian and Angela Ricci Lucchi: Angela’s Diaries - next to the title two beautiful watercolors. I was familiar with Gianikian and Ricci Lucchi’s names, I knew they were both filmmakers and artistic collaborators, but I never really thought about learning more. I decided this would be a good opportunity to get to know them.
Sitting down in the rather sleek Starr Cinema in Tate Modern with one of my dearest art-loving buddies Adil, waiting for the film to start, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. The event started with an introduction by curator Andrea Lissoni, followed by author Robert Lumley. Yervant Gianikian himself was meant to say a few words - except - as Lissoni announced - he couldn’t make it. Although the curator did not make this obvious, it sounded like Gianikian was probably not emotionally prepared to be there, as Angela Ricci Lucchi - his lifetime partner and artistic collaborator - passed away earlier this year. Gianikian kindly left a few words for the curator to read to the audience; moving words that - almost - prepared me before immersing myself in their world.
Over the past 50 years, the two avant-garde filmmakers have created new ways of describing and narrating stories of conflict, violence, colonialism and social inequality through their films. Angela’s Diaries is an exploration of Yervant and Angela’s lives and work seen through Angela’s eyes.
Ricci Lucchi left behind not only an immense artistic legacy, but also quite a few notebooks filled with words, drawings and sketches, recording both private and public matters: travels, things she had read, thoughts. Overhead shots of Yervant’s hands browsing and reading from Angela’s diaries set the scene for a full immersion into their world: from cooking, gardening and wine-making sessions to their research into Russian film archives, biennals and journeys across the world - post-war Bosnia and Herzegovina, Russia and Armenia to name a few - the feature film is a compelling, deeply human representation of Yervant and Angela’s lives, which were indissolubly linked with their work.
One of the things that struck me the most while watching the film is how Angela and Yervant perfectly complement each other, like earth and sky: while Gianikian has an ethereal appearance, Ricci Lucchi has a pragmatic and tangible allure, firmly rooted into the ground. The people who had the privilege to really know them say that the pair were actual collaborators and shared all aspects of their creative process, although Angela was the one doing most of the research behind their films. She was also a gifted watercolour artist: Ricci Lucchi’s watercolors add yet another layer of poetry to the film; the delicate lines and light colors have a fragile quality to them. One of the most poignant moments of the film is listening to Angela’s voice read her accounts of a fire that broke out in their home and caused Yervant severe burns; we hear her words and visualise the story - which almost sounds like a dream - through her beautifully moving drawings.
The passion for their work and love for each other is palpable throughout the film and stays with you for hours, days, even weeks - that’s what happened to me. I wanted to learn about two artists and I did. And not just that. I felt so much more than I thought I would. Almost 2.5 hours later, I walked out of Tate Modern feeling dizzy. After watching Angela and Yervant travel, cook, talk, film, laugh, draw, kiss, hearing their voices tell stories, it was impossible not to feel deeply moved, soul-shaken by the whole experience, maybe because it felt so real and personal. All in all, Angela's diaries is heartwarming and inspiring, and it leaves the viewer feeling almost privileged to have experienced just a little bit of the adventurous and meaningful lives of Angela and Yervant.