When the Polish composer Frédéric Chopin died in Paris in 1849, he was buried there, except for his heart, which his sister spirited back to Warsaw, where it was buried in the Church of the Holy Cross. This tale has inspired “Nummer veertien, home,” Guido van der Werve’s latest and most extreme exercise in endurance-art filmmaking, a 56-minute work for which he swam, biked and ran from Warsaw to Paris, an equivalent of several triathlons.
His goal was to deliver a cup of Polish soil to Chopin’s grave in the Père Lachaise cemetery, which he accomplishes to the strains of a beautifully Romantic requiem that he wrote himself. It is performed by various small orchestras and choirs that he encounters along the way, sometimes in quite tight spaces. His journey is punctuated by various actions — he runs through fire, visits an apartment that explodes and is hoisted heavenward by a very large industrial crane whose sudden appearance may cause a start. Occasionally the scene shifts briefly to historic sites in Greece and Asia while subtitles recount the life and travels of Alexander the Great, who also died on foreign soil.
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