Fiction from Nowhere – Televised Atlas: Season 5, Episode 43

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Over a synagogue, in the city founded by a boy raised on wolf milk, starlings scrawl an ancient alphabet with breakneck serifs. Shots of the birds’ murmurations course through scenes from your Roman tour like water, both filling gaps in the show’s story and exposing their presence. You walk market to market, lapping gelato, purchasing artichokes, stopping to pray at a church in between. Each time birds follow: whether protecting or haunting is up for debate.

As you drink and chat with locals, rumor of M.C. Escher and absinthe bubbles up. They say he could drink an entire bottle in one sitting, that he drew perfect lines while hallucinating, that in Rome even clergy make love to the artists. This is a man who carved staircases that cut up and down, sideways and slant, showing the path of a man so promiscuous that he subjugates physics, moving many directions at once while allowing himself always a means of escape. Never keen on monogamy, you stretch a sinister smile and say that, โ€œParis may be The City of Love, but Rome is The City of Feasts and Orgies, where even speciation holds little import.โ€ Then comes a shot of Rome and the Griffin of Borgheses, proof that an eagle and lion have met here and mated.

Still she stands watch over Rome but not without issue; after ancients built monuments, fascists poured tarmac, paving way for drivers who streamed in and blurred the griffin’s gaze with noxious smog. As you shoot this episode, over 1,600 drivers lurch down Mussolini’s Via dei Fori Imperiali past the Forum to the Coliseum where blackening walls inhale smoke and hold their breath, indefinitely. Off-camera and a part of the problem, you sit in a car heading toward the ailing monument. From the ground, it might seem you were stuck in a frozen parade, but the starlings can see through the smog, however slow you all move, that your crew and their cars are part of a flock, squawking and turning in unified flow.

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