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Introduction
1958

Stan Brakhage makes Anticipation of the Night

"Imagine an eye unruled by man-made laws of perspective, an eye unprejudiced by compositional logic, an eye which does not respond to the name of everything but which must know each object encountered in life through an adventure of perception. How many colors are there in a field of grass to the crawling baby unaware of "Green"?"
Stan Brakhage, Metaphors on Vision

With Anticipation of the Night,, Stan Brakhage introduced what P. Adams Sitney would term the 'lyrical' mode to experimental film. Camera angles and movement, colour, focus, and contrast between light and darkness all contribute to create the impression of emotions expressed directly through the camera. Rapid, circular movements across a green lawn reveal a baby crawling in the foliage, and the film seems to illustrate Brakhage's notion of the 'un-tutored eye' trying to make sense of the world through intuition and immediate visual experience rather than logic.

The film ends with a suicide, a dramatic device reminiscent of the psychodramas and trance films by Maya Deren and Kenneth Anger that influenced Brakhage's earlier work. In Anticipation of the Night, however, the temporal and spatial cues of narrative drama are replaced by a modernist interest in the formal appearance of colours and shapes. Brakhage's gestural and seemingly spontaneous camerawork has been seen as the cinematic equivalent of Abstract Expressionist painting, and his work also has affinities with the writing of Gertrude Stein and Charles Olson's projective poetry.

Despite his tendencies towards abstraction, Brakhage is a deeply romantic filmmaker who appears more at home using aspects of nature than the urban as his subject matter, and in this respect, his work belongs in the tradition of American landscape art.

Ingrid Stigsdotter

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Still from Anticipation of the Night

Courtesy of Marilyn Brakhage/Lux
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