Images of two women, two men, and a gray cat form a montage of rapid bits of movement. A woman is in a bedroom, another wears an apron: they work with their hands, occasionally looking up. ... See full summary »
From a murky landscape, a wooded mountain emerges. We watch the sun. We see a bearded man climbing up the mountain through the snow. He carries an ax, and he's accompanied by a dog. His ... See full summary »
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 »
A stand of birches. Sunlight brightens and dims, revealing more or less of the woods. A little grass is on the forest floor. Is there a shape in the shadows? Something green is out of focus... See full summary »
After the title, a white screen gives way to a series of frames suggestive of abstract art, usually with one or two colors dominating and rapid change in the images. Two figures emerge from... See full summary »
Phrases of Stephen Foster, set to music by Joel Heartling, are set to film in this autobiographical piece: a solitary female voice, occasionally joined by a chorus, sings phrases of sorrow ... See full summary »
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 »
A man, accompanied by a dog, struggles through snow on a mountain side. We see film stock blister; drawn square shapes appear. Then, we see an infant's face. The images of struggling ... See full summary »
A man is supine on a mountain side. Images rush past of nature and a stained glass saint. An infant is born. We see a lactating nipple. Images include a mountain peak, farm buildings, a ... See full summary »
On a winter's day, a woman stretches near a window then sits in a bathtub of water. She's happy. Her lover is nearby; there are close ups of her face, her pregnant belly, and his hands caressing her. She gives birth: we see the crowning of the baby's head, then the birth itself; we watch a pair of hands tie off and cut the umbilical cord. With the help of the attending hands, the mother expels the placenta. The infant, a baby girl, nurses. We return from time to time to the bath scene. By the end, dad's excited; mother and daughter rest. Written by
You ever see that cliché happening, if not in TV or movies then in real life, of the husband documenting every single excruciatingly painful but miraculous happening that is birth? Apparently, according to Stan Brakhage on the DVD this film is on, this trend was at least in part inspired by his original efforts. Shot on a minimal budget (save for what it must've cost to have a birth in the Brakhage household as opposed to the hospital), this film IS the difference between a simple 'home movie' and something close to the most personal art possible. Documentary film-making has always been about a subject that compels the filmmaker enough to get hours and hours of footage down. That here Brakhage, who often does montage work of paintings and the like, is focusing his subject matter on his wife, and his child just itching to get out, in all graphic detail, is astounding. For the 60's, when this was first released, it was probably a lot more shocking than now.
Not to say that the film isn't shocking, but it is on a different level than what you might see on one of those 'birth' shows on one of the Discovery channels. The way certain things are presented in the film are surprising, and (if you're a guy like me) definitely unnerving. But Brakhage somehow makes his film almost beautiful in a way by cutting the film's subject matter in half, so to speak. The first half is just the mother of his child, in a bathtub, feeling the baby kicking, et all. It's really just a great montage of the woman as a whole, nothing unseen, with the belly getting the most screen-time aside from the mother's face and genitals. Then comes the second part, the birth. Basically, if you still wonder how it works, in near unflinching detail, watch the film. That it is presented in such a grainy 16mm kind of filming, and still using the intense, mad montage of Brakhage's two cameras on her (I think it was two, one more close to the 'action' than the other).
And when it ends, it is, like all (practically) successful births, a miracle in and of itself. So much happens within these 13 minutes of film than, in a way, it feels longer. I loved how it dealt with its subject matter, which could be very tricky, and messy (the latter of which is very true), and was still a wonder for the eyes. It lacks music, which is sort of a pro and a con for me- you could do with some music, make it even more home movie-like. As it is, Brakhage has one of his most notorious- and possibly best- works here, and maybe the only film that makes that bridge between a health class and film class in school.
6 of 8 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?