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Friday

Generally, split-screen images are used to indicate simultaneity: These things are happening at the same time. But Finnish filmmaker and installation artist Eija-Liisa Ahtila’s Consolation Service—which is available in both split and unsplit versions—employs the technique to create a sense of rupture. In one sense, this is the theme of a rather ordinary story: Anni and J-P, married with a newborn daughter, have decided to separate. When they meet at a therapist’s office to discuss the end of their relationship, the screen divides the two of them—but only intermittently. Ahtila also uses the dual images to lead the eye out of the story and into asides, some of them linked and some seemingly random. As in Ahtila’s Love Is a Treasure, a nine-minute film that will be shown with the 24-minute Consolation Service, the world fractures and reassembles, people diverge and intersect, and connections can be either profound or meaningless. The director uses found images of everyday life—barking dogs, a teenage girl bouncing a ball, trolleys passing on a downtown street—for purposes that can be either naturalistic or story-driven. (The barking, for example, presages a therapy exercise for Anni and J-P.) Voice-over boldly intrudes, and at one point J-P identifies the couple’s baby sitter as the narrator, “the one who is writing this story.” If such gambits sound arty—well, they are, yet Ahtila’s no snob. Consolation Service also includes a morphing effect that’s more Wachowski Brothers than Stan Brakhage. The films show at 8 p.m. at the Ring Auditorium, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, 7th Street & Independence Avenue SW. Free. (202) 357-2700. (Mark Jenkins)