‘From the first kick of the ball until the final whistle.’
‘Madrid, Saturday 23rd, 2005, who could have imagined that in the future, an ordinary day like this, might be forgotten or remembered as anything more or less significant than a walk in the park. Face to face, as close as it lasts, for as long as it takes’ These are the words that release the football match filmed by the two directors, Douglas Gordon and Philippe Parreno with their super quality cameras. The film starts with an extreme close up on the field and the match, a zoom in to the extent that the only visible material the spectator gets is the digitized coloured bits, changing from green to red then yellow and so on, depending on what the camera is rolling over. 17 cameras around the set with magnificent zoom lenses, the longest, for the first time in the commercial use, all the cameras are following the football player Zinédine Zidane, the icon of the national French football team, playing for Real Madrid.
The directors manage to scrutinize Zidane’s movements, his sweat is so close to the film viewer, and so are his spits, the movement of his eyes, his sight’s fields, the scratch of his nose, having researched the techniques of filming a football match, Gordon and Parreno add their artistic practice on that layer to create a football related cinematic language with moments of abstraction or gazing in a another world, could be a detail of the green grass, a projector emitting heat, a digital clock hanging on a banner, a kellogg’s frosties advertising in motion… Immersion is definitely part of the viewing experience, and at moments, I started thinking that it is actually becoming awkward not to film the actual ball but a star player, it was playing on the ‘ordinary’, the one they mention in the beginning of the film. A fall on the ground would become a poetic landscape, using the same technique of replaying the scene but with a slower pace, and played against Mogwai’s music, created for the original soundtrack of the film. Football never seemed so lonely for me, it was no longer a collective play, it was Zidane, alone, the football field as a deserted place, with the whole ‘ghost like’ ambiance that is out there but that we - the film’s spectators - cannot reach or see.
In the ‘following Zidane’ trip, the directors are looking closely and lovingly to him, Zidane would look up to the sky, and the cameramen follow his sight field, only to show us what is on his mind at this specific brief second, they show us the heat emitted by the light projectors and carry on by a narrative, in Zidane’s words, that takes us backwards to his early childhood years, yet giving a backup for the directors’ way of working; ‘As a child, I had a running commentary in my head when I was playing. It wasn’t really my own voice; it was the voice of Pierre Cangioni, a television anchor of the 1970s. Every time I heard his voice, I would run towards the TV as close as I could get, for as long as I could. It wasn’t that his words were so important, but the tone, the accent, the atmosphere was everything…’
I was taken by Zidane t-shirt’s number 5, for me when I was 5 years old, I thought I looked like number 5, very thin on the top with a big belly, and this is practically the age that as far as I know, is the limit of when I remember myself in my childhood years.
‘When you step into the field, you can hear and feel, the presence of the crowd. There is sound, the sound of noise.’ Zidane follows the appearance of these words, standing alone in the frame, applauding, but we - film’s spectators – did not see what happened on the field to deserve applause, while the field spectators did. ‘When you are immersed in the game, you don’t really hear the crowd, you can almost decide for yourself what you want to hear, you are never alone, I can hear someone shift around in their chair, I can hear someone coughing, I can hear someone whisper in the ear of the person next to him, I can imagine that I can hear the ticking of a watch. Maybe if things are going badly, you become conscious of people’s reaction. When it is not going well, you feel less involved and more likely to hear the insults, the whistles. You start to have negative thoughts sometimes you want to forget.’
‘The game, the event, is not necessarily experienced or remembered in ‘real time’, my memories of games and events are fragmented, sometimes when you arrive in the stadium, you feel that everything has already been decided, the script has already been written’.
It is a whole match, one whole match for Real Madrid, Zidane manages to do it all, he helps Ronaldinho score, Ronaldinho kisses Zidane on the cheek, Zidane fights with the other team’s player, he is penalized, the jury’s red card forces him to leave the field, the directors zoom out from the player to the football field, the whole architecture of the playing field, and it is in Zidane’s words that the film ends: ‘magic is sometimes close to nothing at all, when I retire I will miss the green of the field, ‘le carré vert’’.