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 »

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Credited cast:
Bearthm Brakhage
Neowyn Brakhage
Rarc Brakhage
Stan Brakhage
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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 as we watch a solitary man in shadows in an unadorned house: he stretches out, he picks his feet, he walks across a room, he rocks in a chair. Occasionally he watches two young children at play; the film sometimes speeds up. Handwritten words, like "dark void" and "waiting longing," cross the screen. Film and phrases often come in short bursts. Outdoor it looks gray and cold. Written by <jhailey@hotmail.com>

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1 October 1988 (USA)  »

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1.37 : 1
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"See the dark void..."
12 March 2009 | by (Australia) – See all my reviews

I've seen four Stan Brakhage films to date, and the two that I've liked most are those that seem very personal to the director: 'Window Water Baby Moving (1959),' a documentation of the birth of his first daughter, and 'I… Dreaming (1988),' which was produced in the wake of his divorce from Jane Brakhage, his wife of thirty years. The latter lacks any clear narrative thread, as was Brakhage's style, but is nevertheless quite successful in evoking a sense of loneliness and silent longing. The director himself appears in the film, though in the first half he is photographed mainly as a shadow on the wall, his face typically hidden just off-screen. Perhaps this is how Brakhage was feeling at the time, having been separated from his children; a shadow of his former self. Images of his restless but lethargic figure are intercut with home video of his children – Rarc, Neowyn, Bearthm – apparently filmed in the 1970s when they were playful youngsters.

Unlike all the Brakhage films I've seen so far, 'I… Dreaming' isn't silent, instead featuring a soundtrack of Stephen Foster songs, compiled by Joel Haertling. Appropriate music can add ample emotion to any film, but Brakhage deliberately dilutes the pathos by periodically "skipping" from one tune to the next, best described as the audio equivalent of a French New Wave jump-cut. This frequent sensory disruption dislocates the flow of the montage, re-enforcing the main character's (and thus the director's) unshakable state of restlessness and discomfort. Brakhage scratches select lyrics from the soundtrack directly onto the film, the most prominent of which is the line "see the dark void," perhaps casting an eye towards his inevitable death. Mortality appears to be an important theme in the film, with Brakhage contrasting his own sluggish movements with the hyperactivity of the children, accentuated using time-lapse photography. In a way, the film is an addendum to 'Window Water Baby Moving,' when a parent must say goodbye, rather than hello, to their progeny.


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