Water Matters

The films for this week seem to suggest that water is the ideal subject for film. Indeed, as a transparent and perpetually moving substance, it presents optimum conditions for filmmakers to explore the medium specific concepts of light, rhythm, and movement. Water played an important role in many of the films from this semester. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the significant symbols from “The Starfish,” to “The Seashell and the Clergyman,” to the sea urchin in “Un Chien Andalou” originate in water.

Films like Steiner’s H2O and Brakhage’s Commingled Containers explore the pure visuality of fluid, focusing on the characteristics of rhythmic light as mediated through water. Vorkapitch and Hoffman take water as a medium not of visuality but of emotion in “Moods of the Sea.” In this way, their film seems much more akin to Romance Sentimentale than the more medium specific works like H2O and Commingled Containers.

Viola’s “Reflecting Pool” and Fleming’s “Waving” explore the relationship between the human body and water. In “Reflecting Pool,” Viola plays with the concept of motion and stasis, as the human subject of the film freezes in midair over the water. Fleming explores water as a symbol (and means?) of death in “Waving,” which, as I understand, stems from the death of her grandmother prior to the shooting of the film. These two films suggest that not only does water serve as a suitable physical medium for the transmission of light, but water also serves as a conceptual medium for symbolic content.

The two films by Bill Morrison meditate on decay, a concept that evokes geological erosion by water. “Lost Avenues” and “Light is Calling” use both images of water and fluid textures to meditate on erosion and decay, but also on preservation.

Schneeman’s “Infinity Kisses” documents affection between a cat and its owner. I suppose this film might open an interesting discussion about human-animal communication a la Peter Singer in “Speciesism,” but I don’t have anything to say about this film in relation to water.


One thought on “Water Matters

  1. Tanya Stadelmann says:


    What a pleasure to read your blog from beginning to end. I appreciated your fascinating references and connections to literature and philosophy which reflects your background as a writer. Some of the intertextual links that resonated with me were visual music and Rilke’s musings on the connection between the cranial sutures of a human skull to phonographic grooves, City Symphonies and the Baudelarian flaneur by Walter Benjamin, Maya Deren and Deleuze and Guattari’s theory of the rhizome, and Brakhage and the poetry of Aram Saroyan. It made me want to read some of these texts and re watch our list of avant-garde films. I also really enjoyed your blog: Water Matters where you link the symbolism of The Starfish, The Clergyman and the Seashell and the sea urchin in Un Chien Andalou to contemporary video art.

    Wishing you a great semester break!


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