Back in 2006 an odd little programme snuck out on BBC Four. The programme was called A Pervert’s Guide to Cinema and it featured nothing but the hirsute and lisping Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Žižek talking animatedly about his favourite films. The director Sophie Fiennes did not impose any limitations upon Žižek’s ramblings: She did not ask him questions. She did not impose themes. She did not even demand that the films Žižek dealt with be ordered chronologically or in any kind of order that might render his analyses more accessible to a lay audience. She simply let him get on with it. Her sole input seemingly being at the level of mis-en-scene, ensuring that when Žižek spoke of Hitchcock’s The Birds (1963) he did so sitting in a motorboat crossing a harbour, or that when he spoke of Francis Ford Coppola’s The Conversation (1974), he did so from the bathroom and balcony of the same hotel that appeared in the film.
In the four years since A Pervert’s Guide To Cinema first aired, it has come to be seen not as a documentary about film or a series of cleverly shot televised lectures and more as an experiment in documentary film-making. The experiment involved making a documentary about the arts without seeking to explain either the act of creation or the fruit of that process. By allowing Žižek to chat about his favourite films Fiennes was distancing herself from the obsession with biography and context that dominates cinematic depiction of the arts. A Pervert’s Guide to Cinema was not a film about Žižek or a film about films, instead it was a cinematic appercu of the act of artistic creation itself.
Over Your Cities Grass Will Grow sees Fiennes return to the same philosophical template by providing us with a glimpse into the creative processes of the German installation artist Anselm Kiefer. Over Your Cities Grass Will Grow is not so much an arts documentary as it is an invitation to worship at the unholy altar of an insane god.