The Dark Tower (Stan Brakhage, 1999, USA)

The Dark Tower is another of Stan Brakhage's 90s films. The film starts with what appears to be shards of colors that almost appear to be like butterfly wings, perhaps a callback to the director's acclaimed Mothlight. Gradually these wing-like images begin to appear with greater frequency. The colors are bright and shiny, yellows, greens, blues, and more. There is an almost neon-like quality to them, the brightness appearing in abstract ways. The light is almost piercing through the image as the colors dance around the frame. The frame goes from exceedingly bright to darker as the colors become less pronounced and more scattered in the blackness. The color and light still peer through periodically but the colors begin to increase in frequency again, this time around the sides of the image. There is a crescendo again where the lights take up the main space of the image. The quality of the sensation is similar to falling, as it seems that the colors are flowing upward on the screen and that we as the viewer are descending - perhaps this is what Brakhage is suggesting in terms of the film's title. 

While the tempo changes are a bit jarring, overall the holographic quality of The Dark Tower makes the film interesting and worth checking out. This is not a good entry point for Brakhage viewers, who would be best suited to viewing the director's most notable work like Mothlight first. Still, the brevity of Brakhage's later hand-painted films makes them worth seeking out. There is almost something about them that is akin to the visualizers one would see on older computers in the 1990s, and this is probably why many people choose songs to sync up to the films and this enhances their viewing experiences of the films. A worthwhile watch.


6/10

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