The Wold Shadow (Stan Brakhage, 1977, USA)

The Wold Shadow is a 1972 short by Stan Brakhage. The film was inspired by a walk Brakhage had in the forest. He saw an anthropomorphic shadow that appeared to him as a "god of the forest". Brakhage created the film by painting glass on an easel between his camera and the forest. "Wold" itself refers to an open or wooded area. 

The film opens with a title card. After this, we see the image of the forest, almost in a sepia tone. The screen fades to black and then reappears again several times, lightening the image and then fading it once again. We get the impression of time shifting as the image continues to fade. We then see what appears to be the glass between Brakhage's camera and the forest. The film fades to dark again, and a new vision of the forest emerges. We see flashes of green and then shapes that are difficult to make out. 

Eventually, the images become so degraded and deconstructed that we appear to see only the glass, what seems to be splotches on the glass. The film ends with Brakhage's signature. Like many of Brakhage's films, there is an elliptical and mysterious quality to The Wold Shadow. He has a strong knack for taking the familiar and rendering this in a deeply unfamiliar way. In this case, the image of the forest changes into something foreign, and almost alien - as if we are suddenly looking at outer space. There is a horrific quality at times to Brakhage's films, an astoundment at the natural world but also a terror-related to this nature. The Wold Shadow fits deep into this category of Brakhage's film. The film sparked Brakhage's interest in painting and reignited this for him - if anything, at least one good thing came out of the film.



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