Watching Brakhage Movies and the Act of Seeing

Relevant Link: https://www.criterion.com/current/posts/272-by-brakhage-the-act-of-seeing

Interesting note about what Professor Zinman said in class about studying experimental film to prepare us for ambiguity in the world, the author makes a point here that “the work generally doesn’t aspire to what is often meant by purity; instead, it’s chock-full of the conflicting emotions and general messiness of life itself.” This is heavily contrasted with many classical movies where the goal of the director is to make the audience feel an emotion in line with what he is trying to convey. Brakhage seems to be approaching the topic as trying to make you feel any emotion, perhaps many emotions, at any time.

Naturally there are a group of people who express distaste for the types of film Brakhage creates, but if the goal is to elicit emotion, then perhaps it could be counted as a success if you dislike the film enough to emotionally react to it.

That is not to say that any emotion is free to express at any time throughout the film. In films in general, there are designated sections where “some characters and scenes evoke empathy and others create tension and fear. These emotions are provoked primarily by the subject matter… but while subject matter is important in Brakhage’s films, they do their work mainly through composition, camera movement, rhythms within images, and the rhythms of editing or paint on the film.” That is to say that Brakhage aims for causing certain emotions with things that are not typically associated with it. While talking about the predetermined forms and story arc structures of most narratives, the article says “all were to be undermined because they block the individual from experiencing the unpredictability of inner life.” This goes back to the life lesson of not always being prepared for something and having to react real time to life.

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