Nikolaus Geyrhalter Reveals the Beauty of Abandoned Spaces in a Film Influenced by Urbex

Director Nikolaus Geyrhalter has filmed abandoned spaces all over the world. Using this footage, he recently released a fascinating documentary featuring urban exploration and masterful cinematography.

You have to be the contemplative type to fully appreciate Homo Sapiens, a new documentary by Nikolaus Geyrhalter. For one hour and thirty minutes, a succession of fixed images, with no dialogue or voice over, transports you into manmade constructions that have long succumbed to the forces of nature. An abandoned city overhanging the sea, a church, a school, dilapidated offices, a theatre under water, a rollercoaster covered in sand—for five years, the Austrian director scoured the globe for abandoned constructions, from Fukushima and Bulgaria to the United States, South America and Europe.

The only things disrupting the peace of these places are the sound of a bird’s song, the flight of a dove, a frog crossing the screen, the whistle of the breeze or the tapping of rain. Nikolaus Geyrhalter portrays a world emptied of its inhabitants (post-extinction of Homo Sapiens?). The places he explores seem to have developed their own life entirely independent of humans.

A recent article pointed out that the only place we can truly rest is in nature. In cities, manmade constructions keep our minds on constant alert. Is this phenomenon what makes Homo Sapiens so enchanting? Is it the blurred line between nature and civilization? Nikolaus Geyrhalter is a filmmaker and activist in addition to being a talented photographer. The frames in his films are much like photographs in motion, calling to mind cinemagraphs—animated photos that have gained in popularity in recent years. An aesthetic that renders these abandoned places all the more fascinating. Captivating and troubling, Homo Sapiens is a must-see.

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