Oramunde (Emlen Etting, 1933, USA)

Emlen Pope Etting, Jr. was an American artist who was part of the elite Main Line community in Philadelphia. A Harvard graduate who served in World War II, he experimented with film in the 1930s. Oramunde is a short film Etting made in 1933. The film opens with water stretching out as far as the eye can see, with waves crashing. This is intercut with a woman, draped in a white gauzy film, dancing interpretively in a field. The woman's movements mimic the movement of the water. She continues to move through the field, running around.

The film then begins to center on the woman, draped in what appears to be a bedsheet. She moves through the forest, wandering. Interspersed again are shots of the water. The woman stretches her arms to the sky, and then she is running along the rocks against the water. The natural world here is captured with a great amount of beauty, and the woman's movements seem to express this natural world. The woman appears to be crying out or listening to something at one point, and Etting returns with the image of waves crashing. 

There is something eerie about Oramunde. Beyond the physical appearance of wearing the sheet, the woman has a ghostly quality to her. The overall effect is haunting, especially when we see her rendered in close-up against the crashing waves and caves. As some have noted, the dancer almost takes on the quality of a moving sculpture throughout the film. Oramunde, while likely inspired by the works of Jean Cocteau, represents a distinctly American vision from early avant-garde cinema. The visuals are haunting and memorable. We at Cinephilic Musings are curious to see the other films that Etting made. Oramunde is a beautiful fusion of cinematic poetry and modern dance from the 1930s.



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