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Overview for Nicolai Cleve Broch
Nicolai Cleve Broch

Nicolai Cleve Broch


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Since 1952, and his first film, "Interim," through such landmark efforts as "Anticipation of the Night" (1958), Brakhage has been engaged in an effort to reshape our habits of seeing. In his book, "Metaphors on Vision," he wrote, "Imagine an eye unruled by man-made laws of perspective, an eye unprejudiced by compositional logic, an eye which does not repond to the name of everything but which must know each object encountered in life through an adventure of perception..." Brakhage has made over 200 films, ranging in length from less than a minute to more than four hours. Though the style of his filmmaking has been consistent over four decades--shallow focus, a rich and sensual use of color, rhythmic cutting, little or no soundtrack--Brakhage has dealt with a variety of themes. In "Scenes From Under Childhood" (1967-70) he sought to reconstruct the primal adventure of perception; in "Dog Star Man" (1959-64) he created a visual symphony that compares the ascent of a mountain to our passage into life; in "Window Water Baby Moving" (1959) he produced a unique film on the birth of a child; and in "Mothlight" (1963) and a dozen other films made over the next 20-odd years, he pasted organic materials or painted, inked, or dyed images directly onto film stock, making streams of images without the use of a camera.

The origin of Brakhage's cinema lies in the non-narrative realms of music, painting and poetry. Oliver Messiaen's music was a formative influence on "Scenes From Under Childhood;" poet Robert Creeley has been a commentator for and colleague of Brakhage for decades. In the 1960s Brakhage was celebrated for his subjective vision and his nonconformism; in the 70s he alienated many friends with his "Pittsburgh documents," especially the harrowing "Act of Seeing With One's Own Eyes" (1971), set in a morgue, as well as the sync-sound "The Stars Are Beautiful" (1974) and "The Governor" (1977), which tracked the chief executive of the State of Colorado. Simultaneously, Brakhage was producing the autobiographical "Sincerity/Duplicity" series (1973-80), a project which he may resume. In the 1980s he produced what he called his first "abstract" films: the "Roman Numeral Series" (1979-81), nine films titled only with roman numerals; and the "Arabics" (1980-82), 19 more works of "envisioned music"--which was as far as he would go in discussing the content of these brief, jewel-like bursts of light.

In 1988, commenting on his new film, "Marilyn's Window," Brakhage spoke of how a "stream-of-visual-consciousness could be nothing less than the pathway of the soul," suggesting that his films speak to human senses that are vital but dormant, eyes that can grasp more than we have imagined. Parallel to his filmmaking, Brakhage has been a teacher and writer whose books include "Metaphors on Vision" (1963) and "Brakhage Scrapbook" (1982); "Film Biographies" (1977) and "Film At Wit's End" (1989), collections of essays on other filmmakers; and "I...Sleeping," a dream journal from 1975, published in 1988.

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