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Wedlock House: An Intercourse (1959)

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 »


Stan Brakhage (as Brakhage)




Uncredited cast:
Jane Brakhage Jane Brakhage ... (uncredited)
Stan Brakhage ... (uncredited)


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 in the window, she closes the drapes. After sex, again in a black and white negative, they sit, smoke, have coffee. They kiss, she smiles. They light candles. The images are often quick, the camera angles occasionally are off kilter; the room is sometimes dark and sometimes lit, as if lit by the rotating of a searchlight. The images again appear in negative when they return to bed. Written by <jhailey@hotmail.com>

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Short | Romance

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This film is included on "By Brakhage: an Anthology", which is part of the Criterion Collection, spine #184. See more »

User Reviews

Marriage as a dark room
7 April 2010 | by timmy_501See all my reviews

When Stan Brakhage made Wedlock House: An Intercourse in 1959 he had recently gotten married. Evidently he felt quite trapped by this commitment and he turned to his work for an outlet. The film starts with a detached yet graphic sex scene shown in negative. After a brief shot of this the camera zooms in and the sexual movements quickly become repetitive as the camera draws closer to the action until the body parts are no longer recognizable. By starting this film with the act of intercourse Brakhage emphasizes the sexual aspect of marriage. After the sex scene the screen goes almost entirely black; this darkness is only broken up by occasional glimpses of the man and woman illuminated by a roving light source like a flashlight. At this point the two look to be quite happy together. The image of their smiling faces is obscured by a curtain drawing closed. In the rest of the film the characters seem to be fairly grim as they move around the house closing and covering all portals to the outside world.

The house the man and woman (played by none other than the Brakhages themselves) are seen in represents their marriage and the way they close themselves off from the outside world is a visual expression of their new codependence. Once they've barricaded the house things begin to change. Both the man and the woman are often seen looking at their own reflections in the mirror; they're still caught up in themselves and it isn't easy for them to adjust to their new duties. Of course, the house continues to be dark for the most part with only occasional moments of fleeting illumination. The sexual act is repeated in much the same way as the first shots but it's no longer followed by an expression of bliss; the action that follows it is much the same as the action that proceeds it as even this facet of their relationships becomes as much a part of their banal routine as drinking coffee at the table. Still, the film doesn't portray their relationship as completely hopeless: occasionally the mirror gazing couple manages to catch sight of the other person in the background of the reflection signifying some possibility of an authentic and positive personal connection.

From a technical standpoint, the most important component of Wedlock House: An Intercourse is the lighting. The various light sources include the aforementioned roving flashlights, candles, and numerous reflecting surfaces including the mirrors and the metal part of an alarm clock. The light is further emphasized when it's obscured by white cigarette smoke and black candle smoke which are as often as not divorced from the context of their source. Brakhage's experiments with light are used to excellent effect to complement his depiction of the institution of marriage as a dark room with intermittent flickers of edifying light.

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Release Date:

14 April 1972 (USA) See more »

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Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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