Commingled Containers (Stan Brakhage, 1997, USA)

Commingled Containers is a 1997 short by Stan Brakhage. The film opens with streakers of blue light, that appear rain-like on the screen. The screen then suddenly cuts to black, revealing shadows interspersed with blue and green light. The wave-like pattern resurfaces, along with the cloudy black shadow and green orbs. We have the sense of looking through refracted light, and then the waves resurface on the screen. This is followed by various shapes of light that appear to be landing on the bottom of a screen. Again the water motif resurfaces, marking a point of continuation throughout.

The blue and green shadowed place has the appearance of a surreal evening sky, with the light shapes appearing as almost lightning on the horizon. At times these images appear almost as sea creatures, like jellyfish, interacting at a rapid pace with one another. They expand and contract, sometimes quite rapidly on the image. The feeling is of floating underwater, and this water experience is further solidified by the film's finale, which seems to feature water flowing across the front of the camera. 

Commingled Containers is one of Brakhage's better works, and shows his skill at manipulating photography and light at a time when his works were primarily dominated by painting. It is not clear to me if Brakhage was suffering from vision problems later in life, but there is something about the quality of Commingled Containers that reflects an intense curiosity about the nature of vision, and how vision is rendered in the eyeball. There is something deeply primal about Commingled Containers, in that it seems to be transmitting a sense of the birth of a vision, or perhaps the final birth of a vision. The works in Brakhage's later career are quite varied and fascinating, and Commingled Containers is one of the better late-stage Brakhage works.



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