Stan Brakhage: Yggdrasill: Whose Roots Are Stars in the Human Mind (1997) - Can't Stop the Movies
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Stan Brakhage: Yggdrasill: Whose Roots Are Stars in the Human Mind (1997)

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Many of Stan Brakhage's films are available for viewing in multiple venues.  You can watch Yggdrasill: Whose Roots Are Stars in the Human Mind here.

Tail - YggdrasillI've spoken about this before, but Stan Brakhage titles his films better than just about any other artist I can think of.  Just look at the title of today's film, Yggdrasill: Whose Roots Are Stars in the Human Mind, and think about what images conjure up in your mind.  For me it's a genesis of thought, images that have their place in infinity but are still rooted in an experience which binds us all.  The mythical Yggdrasill's limbs extended into all parts of creation stretching to the Norse afterlife and into the ether from which new beings sprung forth.

I'm not sure any film could live up to a title like that with all the possibilities it entails.  But if there's one filmmaker who could bring that promise to life, it's Brakhage, and while he doesn't succeed the results of Yggdrasill are still a wonder to behold.

In some ways Yggdrasill is a companion piece to the last Brakhage I watched, The Cat and the Worm's Green Realm.  They both deal with the way we perceive existence, but while The Cat deals with the very small trying to comprehend a universe within a larger universe, Yggdrasill seems to be trying to take in the enormity of existence at once.  The pace is not nearly as languid, starting on the same green cells that gave The Cat its beginning but springing quickly to what looks like sap.  If we are watching the tendrils of existence in their entirety then the microscopic origins of plant life form the blood, or sap, would move at such a speed that we would not be able to comprehend the scale of time it takes for small to become large.

Which brings me to the editing rate Brakhage employs throughout Yggdrasill.  It's not as fast as his typical painted films, but it's not at the slow pace of The Cat.  This allows us time to ponder the transition, the moments between one type of existence to another as Brakhage employs painted frames one second then heavily distorted stock footage the next.  My favorite transition goes from scratched frames to an oh-so-brief appearance of the digital paints Brakhage used in the exquisite Black Ice.

Artificial, natural, life - Brakhage's film tries to ponder all of existence instead of questioning our perception within it.  I didn't have the same revelatory moment I did when watching The Cat, no one shot suddenly places the universe in perspective, but that film was a parable where this is a travelogue.  There's a wide universe out there for us to traverse through in one form or another, and it's exciting to think about what form it might take next.

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Brakhage with text

Posted by Andrew

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