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 »
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 »
We see a film negative of a nude couple embracing in bed. Then, back in regular black and white images, we see them alone and together, clothed, at home. It's night, she sees his reflection... 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 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 »
Forensic pathologists perform autopsies. The first two consist of examination, measurement, and checking muscles. The remaining ones involve cutting away bone to expose and examine internal organs, peeling back skin and muscle, removing organs, using syringes to extract bodily fluids, and cutting pieces of tissue. Clothes are inventoried. As each autopsy ends, bodies are covered with sheets. There is no soundtrack. We see a body with extensive burns. The work is sometimes delicate, sometimes not; but it's always gory so be warned.Written by
In order to obtain entry to the morgue, Stan Brakhage had to agree that he would not show any of the faces of the deceased. Also, the film had to be approved by all the medical examiners who were captured on film. See more »
Most of the time I'm not really all that much a fan of Brakhage's "live action"-films. Generally, I feel they lack the evocative and creative elements of his hand-painted or more abstract films. This film though, was very engaging and interesting for several reasons. While many of Brakhage's films deal with the concept of vision and perception, very few of them incorporate standard first-person perspectives. They tend to take a more irregular and perhaps chaotic approach to the very activity of seeing and how Brakhage shows things in his "live action"-films are rarely how one would normally perceive it in the real world. His films do give different perspectives though, I think, to show the nature of things and aspects of life in a new way. And this one is a very good example of just that.
"The Act of Seeing With One's Own Eyes." A genius title that is so multifaceted in this context. Firstly, it's the direct translation of the world "autopsy" which this film, on the surface level, is about. Secondly, it seems to be an important guiding sentence, not only for this film, but for much of Brakhage's work. Regardless of what Brakhage had in mind when making his films, I think anyone who watch them put their own meaning to it. They see with their own eyes and thus gives it meaning. This film is so much more than just an experimental take on documenting the work of pathologists though. Watching it, one is placed face to face with death. One is placed face to face with people working with the dead, all the time. Their working days are surrounded by death. I think this picture can get one to know death better, look it in the eye and accept its inevitable presence. Driven by curiosity, the camera shows in great detail every part of the human body being weighted, dissected, seemingly being totally shred to pieces. At times it's unsettling to watch. But then you take a step back and think about the purpose of it all. This is a serious practice, advanced and perfected through centuries of development. We see craftsmen, doing the work that probably very few of us would ever want to do or even think about. And in the end, what they do is a benefit for the humankind as much as whatever anyone do.
It's all very natural. The things shown that we may find repulsive and disgusting, is what we all are made of. And Brakhage's quick, unusually explorative style highlights this in a very admirable way. The lack of sound of course just keeps the focus entirely on the dead human body, torn apart with deep respect.
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