Stan Brakhage: I...Dreaming (1988) - Can't Stop the Movies
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Stan Brakhage: I…Dreaming (1988)

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Many of Stan Brakhage's films are available for viewing in multiple venues.  You can watch I...Dreaming here.

I...Dreaming - 1988I...Dreaming is another one of Stan Brakhage's home films with sound.  The last two times I watched that atypical mix from him have been the two worst experiences I've had with his career.  But I...Dreaming proves two of those old film maxims.  The first, "A movie is not what it's about, but how it's about it."  The second, "Show, don't tell."

The reason that the previous two films did not gel with me is because they were both examples of what happens when those idioms go wrong.  I...Dreaming succeeds largely because of a nice twist to the former with Brakhage utilizing an idiosyncratic piece of music by composer score Joel Haertling to structure his film around his decaying mental state.  It stumbles a bit in the latter because of the presence of Brakhage's scratching on the film, which become mood-breaking thought bubbles.

That structure is why I...Dreaming is a welcome change of pace.  Brakhage shows himself as an old man completely out of touch with his surroundings.  He appears mostly as a shadow cautiously moving through the house avoiding contact with anything, or a motionless statue who can't be bothered to look at, or talk to, his children while they are at play.  It's a depressing sight, one that has Brakhage cutting between the versions of himself that are at odds with his environment.  In the one moment where he is not employing any kind of trickery in the camera he strips naked.  The montage makes it clear, wherever Brakhage is mentally, he does not want to engage without one of his tools of style, to communicate plainly is to expose himself to everything.

Turns out that is not far off.  Brakhage had separated from his wife, Linda, when he made I...Dreaming at what he describes as one of the lowest points of his life.  The unusual music choice is perfect as Haertling's composition has a singer whose sad voice tries repeatedly to sing to an emotional climax before being cut short and having to start back over.  Brakhage is learning to feel his way through the spaces of the home he now sees as empty, having to also begin anew if he puts forth the effort to move to a new room.  It's a moving array of image and sound, probably the first to so clearly highlight his emotional state.

While a great short, it is still marred by his decision to scrape his emotional state onto the film as well.  Much like the direct recitation of poetry and image was too blunt an instrument for The Stars Are Beautiful, the frames of I...Dreaming are not improved by a shadow fading away followed by a scraped "Sad" or "Void" appearing onscreen.  It's like listening to a pop song about heartache and right when the chorus hits a second voice disrupts the harmony by saying, "You need to feel bad now."  That could be interesting to see on the Top 40, but for a film as personal as this it comes across like an annoying crutch into the emotional view of the film.  I...Dreaming shows that Brakhage can weave sound into his films to great effect, the question remains whether he can leave well enough alone when the point is well made.

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Brakhage with text

Posted by Andrew

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