In Search of God

A model made up with a pinched face holds a melting ice cube. Her hands and breasts are coated in green paint. Wisps of blonde hair protrude from under a pearl-embroidered cap. Numbers tick down from her left eye. Composed specifically for the film, William Shore’s soundtrack draws its inspiration from Richard Wagner, pulling the “Tristan chord,” from Wagner’s “Tristan and Isolde.”

Vakuum, the latest short from Swiss director Maria Burns, is much more than just a glossy fashion film. “Growing up within a generation having to face the idea that there is no god led me to create this piece,” explains Burns. “I have found no substitute that might fill the void left behind by the absence of God. It is a vacuum that most don’t even identify with or understand,” she continues. “In 1882, Nietzsche declared that ‘God is Dead’ at a time when no one was ready to hear it. Some may be able to relate to it today, and I wonder how they handle the challenge of being human.” The backbone of the Vakuum, Burns says, is what Nietzsche saw as the struggle of humanity: “What do you make of your endowment as an animal and how far can you go towards the journey of becoming god.”

Currently based in New York City, Burns studied psychology before embarking on a career as a photographer. She was inspired to experiment with film after seeing a piece by her friend Alexander Haessner and her first short, “Tendance Brute,” which premiered on Interview in 2013.