Stan Brakhage: From: First Hymn to the Night - Novalis (1994) - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies
29Jan/150

Stan Brakhage: From: First Hymn to the Night – Novalis (1994)

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Many of Stan Brakhage's films are available for viewing in multiple venues.  You can watch From: First Hymn to the Night - Novalis here.

From - First Hymn to the Night-Novalis - 1994I love when Stan Brakhage uses his craft to create a film that puts his work in direct conversation with another piece of literature.  In this cast the title of From: First Hymn to the Night - Novalis, is almost the same title of the poem upon which the film is based.  The poem is a gorgeous piece of writing, and considering the great results Brakhage had with The Dante Quartet, I had high hopes for First Hymn to the Night.

Those hopes quickly transformed into peace and contentment as First Hymn to the Night is a rare Brakhage film in this second volume that relies primarily on his paints.  Unlike The Dante Quartet, First Hymn to the Night is less a film that is in conversation with the source material and more a poetic reflection of it.  The overall means of doing so is admittedly a bit disappointing as Brakhage selects different parts of the text and then paints a reflection of the words.  But the results is not unlike prayer, and one that embraces the deep wonder of death and the night.

First Hymn of the Night is a flurry of reassuring paintings that form a peaceful ebb and flow alongside the brief snippets of the poem.  Brakhage does not select whole lines, but small collections of words that he can build into a painterly response.  So when there is communication about light, Brakhage responds with a gorgeous display of color mixed with an almost heavenly arrangement of whites pressed gently into the areas where there would normally be darkness.  But when darkness is discussed in another pulled quote the darkness does not overwhelm Brakhage's chosen frames.  Instead it becomes complimentary part of a liquid flow in between the other colors, each working with one another to show the beauty of darkness.

I've spoken before about how Brakhage's films are about death but never in fear of it, typically treating the experience of gracing or passing into the next realm (whatever that might be) as part of the flow of existence.  Brakhage's films have dealt with this in much longer pieces and not always as positively, but First Hymn to the Night is a concise and enchanting treatment on the cyclical balance of life, death, and whatever passes on in its new form into the next stage.  The cycle is eternal, and Brakhage's reverence is deeply felt in this wonderful film.

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Brakhage with text

Posted by Andrew

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