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The Dante Quartet (1987)

6.8
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Reviews: 2 user | 5 critic

A visual representation, in four parts, of one man's internalization of "The Divine Comedy." Hell is a series of multicolored brush strokes against a white background; the speed of the ... See full summary »

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A visual representation, in four parts, of one man's internalization of "The Divine Comedy." Hell is a series of multicolored brush strokes against a white background; the speed of the changing images varies. "Hell Spit Flexion," or springing out of Hell, is on smaller film stock, taking the center of the frame. Montages of color move rapidly with a star and the edge of a lighted moon briefly visible. Purgation is back to full frame; blurs of color occasionally slow down then freeze. From time to time, an image, such as a window or a face, is distinguishable for a moment. In "existence is song," colors swirl then flash in and out of view. Behind the vivid colors are momentary glimpses of volcanic activity. Written by <jhailey@hotmail.com>

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10 April 2004 (Hong Kong)  »

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1.37 : 1
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Hell Itself
30 April 2009 | by (Australia) – See all my reviews

Don't ask me to describe 'The Dante Quartet (1987),' because I wouldn't know where to start. Painted over six years, an inordinately long time for the prolific Stan Brakhage, the film is a six-minute representation of the afterlife inspired by Dante's "The Divine Comedy" {a work I'm not very familiar with, so please forgive any inaccuracies}. The main character's ascent from Hell is divided into four phases – titled "Hell Itself," "Hell Spit Flexion," "Purgation" and "Existence is Song." The amount of work that must have gone into the film is staggering, with images flickering by at a rate far too rapid to register each frame individually, but that doesn't mean you don't see anything. During the first segment, I started to see Hellish visions that I'm not sure were even there – haggard faces, fallen heroes, rearing steeds and stranded ships. Brakhage plays on the subjective experience of the viewer, subliminally directing their thoughts through his use of colours and brush-strokes. Adding more subconscious layers to the film's narrative is his use of "found footage," with photographs and film (including shots from a worn 70mm print of 'Irma La Douce (1963),' apparently) seeming to "rise to the surface" of the frame. When I first caught the faded vision of a man with sunglasses, I leaned forward scrutinisingly, and it was like discerning the devil in the flicker of television static. Indeed, so uncertain was I of what I'd just seen that I began to doubt my own eyes – perhaps, after all, I'd only caught the silhouette of my reflection in the computer monitor. Seeing isn't believing where Brakhage is concerned.


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