A fertile portrait of the creative marriage between the organic and inorganic, Convento gazes reverentially at the mad-scientist designs of Christiaan Zwanikken, a Dutch kinetic artist living in a restored 400-year-old Portuguese monastery with his former ballerina mother, Geraldine, and brother Louis. Christiaan’s work, which involves animating animal skeletons with whirring, buzzing servomotors, is one of resurrection but also, fundamentally, of communion between man and nature that’s echoed in Louis’s care of live animals and Geraldine’s gardening and cooking—all endeavors that are linked via director Jarred Alterman’s evocative close-ups of working hands. Alterman’s camerawork, panning and zooming about Christiaan’s ants, rabbits, birds, and other assorted mecha creatures, conveys a sense of ominous religious awe. Throughout the ancient, inventively remodeled estate, the past and present merge to form new, unique life in haunting fashion. A motorized donkey powered by gears to lift water buckets from a deep well in a manner identical to a live donkey’s toil centuries earlier is the most entrancing of Christiaan’s creations. He’s a modern-day Dr. Frankenstein with a decidedly humane spirit.

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