Thigh Line Lyre Triangular (Stan Brakhage, 1961, USA)

Thigh Line Lyre Triangular (1961) is the second of Stan Brakhage's "birth films", following Window Water Baby Moving (1958), which captured the birth of his first child. Brakhage felt that this first film didn't accurately capture his experience at birth, and wanted to create a film that more authentically captured this. Thigh Line is essentially a capture of the moments of birth - the view of his wife Jane from her feet. But instead of presenting this straightforwardly, Brakhage renders the visual partially indecipherable by scratching the photographic image.

The film opens with Brakhage's signature handwritten title card. We are immediately thrust into action. Thousands of scratches appear on the video image in rapid succession. However, we can see a woman lying in a bed and the preparation for birth. The scratches take on various forms - sometimes they appear as white streaks, and at other times they appear as black splotches. Sometimes it seems that Brakhage has scratched the outline of his wife around her. Sporadically Brakhage allows the actual photographic image to peer through, and we see very clearly the nurse as well as the process. At other times, it is nearly impossible to make out anything that is going on due to the scratches on the video image. 

The result is a challenging viewing experience, and far from a straightforward one. Brakhage was always one of the most autobiographical of the experimental filmmaking set, and these birth films are perhaps his most autobiographical films, capturing in full detail the most intimate moments of his life. Yet at the same time, he creates a distance, abstractly rendering this event. Thigh Line Lyre Triangular is certainly one of the most memorable Brakhage films, not only for what it captures but how it captures it in the most Brakhage-esque of ways.



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