A documentary about Armando,
by Sjors Swierstra and Roelof Jan Minneboo
What happens in your childhood defines your life, according to artist Armando. His childhood was defined by one crucial incident; a boy kills a German soldier in the woods during the Second World War. The story recurs in Armando’s work in many forms.: an ill-fated event, a victim that becomes a perpetrator, a guilty forest that witnessed everything but remains silent. Was Armando involved in the fateful event or did he invent a tragedy of mythological proportions? Filmmakers Sjors Swierstra and Roelof Jan Minneboo go in search of answers.
It begins at a woodland edge. A boy, around 15 years old, defies the curfew. A German soldier apprehends the boy and leads him to the Amersfoort concentration camp. The boy pretends to trip and stabs the soldier with a knife. The soldier dies, the boy flees.
This incident plays an essential part in the work of painter, writer, poet, sculptor, violinist and theatre-maker Armando. In interviews, Armando regularly brings up the incident, but he wards off deeper questions. Therefore many questions remain: was he involved himself or did he invent a universal tragedy, his own myth, that runs through his extensive oeuvre?
Armando, the handsome, charismatic man with his cold leering eyes, never hid his fascination with violence. He cultivated a violent image since his first appearance on the art scene. He had himself photographed with weapons and calls himself ‘the phenomenon Armando’: a criminal guy, a fearsome fist-, street- and knife-fighter. Do this fascination and the game that the old Armando still plays with his image, originate from the incident?
As the film progresses, Swierstra and Minneboo, intrigued by Armando and his gnarly oeuvre for years, get closer to the skin of the artist. The filmmakers confront Armando with the mythical image he created for himself. The questions about the incident become more intense, the camera zooms in on his aged, weathered face. And still his leering eyes sparkle. Armando doesn’t give in easily, he fights for the autonomy of his artistry. Does Armando want to talk about what occurred in the woods, now that the end is near?
The film follows the last chapter in the life and work of one of the most important Dutch post-war artists. It is a search for the truth and a homage to the mystery. Swierstra and Minneboo show that the artist and his work come together in a fascinating Gesamtkunstwerk about trauma, guilt and memory.