He Saw Her Burning, which is based on a 1983 performance, is a provocative narrative collage, a surreal juxtaposition of two narrated texts. A man and a woman begin their respective tales: He saw a woman burst into flames on the street; she saw an American soldier go berserk and drive a tank into a crowd. Produced while Jonas was living in Berlin on an artist's fellowship, the disjunctive narratives are pervaded with a sense of cultural dislocation and alienation. The man and woman occupy separate narrative spaces as they tell their stories, which are intercut with a pastiche of word games, narrative reenactments, filmed sequences, isolated gestures and objects. Memory — elusive and ephemeral, personal and collective — is the catalyst for this complex work.
Director: Joan Jonas. Super-8 Camera: Cynthia Beatt. Music: The Residents, Vera and Gabor Body. With: Y Sa Lo, Shawn Lawton. Editors: Joan Jonas, Egon Bunne.