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Mothlight (1963)

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A "found foliage" film composed of insects, leaves, and other detritus sandwiched between two strips of perforated tape.


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Title: Mothlight (1963)

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Seemingly at random, the wings and other bits of moths and insects move rapidly across the screen. Most are brown or sepia; up close, we can see patterns within wings, similar to the veins in a leaf. Sometimes the images look like paper cutouts, like Matisse. Green objects occasionally appear. Most wings are translucent. The technique makes them appear to be stuck directly to the film. Written by <>

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Plot Keywords:

wings | insect | brown | sepia | moth | See more »






Release Date:

9 April 2004 (Hong Kong)  »

Also Known As:

To fos tis nyhtopetaloudas  »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?


Referenced in The Jacket (2005) See more »

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User Reviews

Lights ... Action
27 December 2008 | by (Australia) – See all my reviews

I've just watched 'Mothlight (1963)' - my first film from the Stan Brakhage - twice in a row, and I'm no closer to working it out. Experimental filmmakers usually have some purpose in mind with their work, some aesthetic or thematic goal to which they are aspiring. What the case may be with 'Mothlight' is beyond me. I've heard some critics venture that it represents the world as experienced through a moth's eyes, but how this is achieved by gluing plants and dead insects onto celluloid is another matter. Certainly the most interesting facet of this four-minute short is that it was produced entirely without a camera, Brakhage having attached the organic fragments directly to the filmstrip. Is there beauty in these images? To a certain degree, I think, but each frame darts by so incredibly quickly that its difficult to appreciate what you are seeing. Every jarring movement is like being awakened from a dream, several times a second, such that you end up not getting any dreaming done at all.

I've probably committed a mortal sin by adding music to a film that is presumably supposed to be silent, but I thought that Wagner's "Ride of the Valkyries" actually brought an agreeable rhythm to the continuous stream of shifting images. This result, now that I think of it, is probably the antithesis of what Brakhage had intended, for, viewed alone, his animation (which effectively re-animates the dead, as one author put it) has a jarring feel about it, as though you're driving and insects keep splatting against your windscreen, bringing your vehicle to a standstill at every jolt. Film is a medium that relies upon light for its existence, and its light-created images often have the power to captivate and entrance us – just as a moth is drawn instinctively towards the glow of a lantern. In a way, I suppose, it is the audience that is the moth in this case, seated in the darkness, our attention lured towards the images of light on the cinema screen. Heck, I already feel like I'm reading too far into it.

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