Jesper Just b. 1974
Bliss and Heaven (2005)
Near the beginning of "Bliss and Heaven" (2004), a short film by the Danish artist Jesper Just, a young man crouches at the edge of a wheat field as a trailer truck roars into an open lot next to an electrical substation. The driver, a big middle-aged guy in a trucker hat and, like the young man, wearing a white tank top and worn bluejeans, gets out, looks around as if he knows he's being watched and ambles to the back of the trailer, where he opens the door and climbs in. The young man follows. Once inside, he finds himself in a small, ornate 19th-century music hall.
The older man appears in a spotlight onstage wearing a woman's blond wig and a long, diaphanous scarf. In an extraordinarily deep voice and with great feeling, he proceeds to sing "Please Don't Keep Me Waiting," a song made famous by Olivia Newton-John. It is beautiful and powerfully stirring. Even when he points to the sky and rocks his hips disco-style, his scarf billowing on fan-driven wind, it seems not absurd but urgently expressive.
And when he collapses onstage at the end, as the lights flicker violently, you feel you've witnessed an emotional upheaval of monumental proportions. The young man, visibly moved, rises from his seat in the middle of the hall and applauds slowly and steadily as the film ends.
Included in "Romantic Delusions," an enchanting show of four short films by Mr. Just at the Brooklyn Museum, "Bliss and Heaven" exhibits most of the qualities for which he has become known since completing his studies at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, Copenhagen, in 2003. Melodramatic but never campy or over the top and with Hollywood-quality production values, his films probe vulnerable, ordinarily well-armored zones of the masculine psyche like grief, same-sex love, Oedipal conflict and spiritual desire.