This film is included on "By Brakhage: an Anthology", which is part of the Criterion Collection, spine #184. See more »
Black Ice and the Cold of Space: A Surprising Parallel
'Black Ice' is one of Brakhage's most striking films. An unusual depth of field is attained by melding linear with forward motion; the viewer experiences Brakhage's sumptuous flickers and splatters and explosions of color as if passing through them, rather than, as is more frequently the case in Brakhage's motion painting, as if watching them on a single plane.
An unusual connection will be noticed by viewers with a wide range of cinematic experience: this film shares a startling similarity of cinematic resonance with the V'Ger cloud fly-through in Robert Wise's 'Star Trek: The Motion Picture' (1979). The use of multi-plane visual depth and the frequent recourse to a deep blue color palette combined with flashes of hotter colors (reds and oranges in Brakhage, whites in Wise) links the two sequences visually; the settings (a patch of black ice and the literal fear of loss of vision in Brakhage; the depth of space and the absence of understanding-- metaphorical blindness-- in Wise) supply the unexpected intellectual and emotional link. It's not that the two sequences are identical, of course (Brakhage's sequences are much more rapid, for one), but that they work well together at a deeper level than mere superficial similarities. As it is unlikely that Wise and his collaborators knew Brakhage's work, and improbable that Brakhage was influenced by the earlier film. this stands as an intriguing illustration of the ways in which related aesthetic, emotional, and intellectual questions can independently stimulate related answers.
'Black Ice' is very short, but it has a far greater impact than its length would suggest; it is truly an example of visual poetry, and is well worth seeking out.
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