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The Garden of Earthly Delights (1981)

A collage of two-dimensional images of vegetation, each appearing only for a moment, sometimes as a single image, more often with other bits of stem, leaf, bud, or petal. Often we see only ... See full summary »

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A collage of two-dimensional images of vegetation, each appearing only for a moment, sometimes as a single image, more often with other bits of stem, leaf, bud, or petal. Often we see only the outline of objects against a black background. Black and green are occasionally joined by fragments of orange or of white and blue. The objects in the frame don't move but they are quickly replaced by another collage, giving the feel of rapid motion. Each collage is crisp, its lines etched against the background of black and later of white. Whitman anyone, or Hieronymus Bosch? Although there is no soundtrack, the rapidity of changing images and colors suggests a riot. Written by <jhailey@hotmail.com>

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collage | bud | leaf | petal | stem | See All (14) »

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10 April 2004 (Hong Kong)  »

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Montane zone vegetation
8 February 2011 | by (Australia) – See all my reviews

Stan Brakhage described 'The Garden of Earthly Delights (1981)' as "a homage to (but also an argument against) Heironymous Bosch." He obviously wasn't referring to the detective character by Michael Connolly, so I dug a little deeper, and learnt about the Early Netherlandish painter of the same name (c. 1450 – 1516), whose triptych "The Garden of Earthly Delights" is an awesomely rich and complex work of art. I spent a few minutes studying the painting at high resolution, but didn't really reach any conclusions regarding its meaning. The general consensus seems to be that Bosch is warning against the perils of lust and other worldly temptations.

But back to Brakhage's film. There doesn't seem to be much in the way of temptation; the collage of plant matter (probably squashed between two strips of mylar film, as with 'Mothlight (1963)') appears organic, but hardly erotic. Brakhage also cited as inspiration ""The Tangled Garden" by J.E.H. MacDonald, and the flower paintings of Emil Nolde. The connection here is more apparent: these works show nature in disorder, branches of vegetation twisting and scrambling across each other in a messy but natural manner (in Bosch's painting, the opposite is true). Personally, I was reminded of the tessellations of M.C. Escher, with shapes seeming to blend into each other, forming recognisable flocks of birds and fish.


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