Stan Brakhage is considered to be one of the most important figures in 20th century experimental film with numerous cult films dressing his filmography. “There are a lot of movies made for nobody,” he quotes. His movie, The Act of Seeing With One’s Own Eyes, is certainly made for somebody, but that somebody is definitely not the mass public. I struggled through my viewing of this short film; 32 minutes of anguish, horror and yet, sheer astonishment. It is made up of gloriously intense visuals, visuals of a live autopsy procedure happening right in front of the camera’s ‘eyes’. Not everyone’s cup of tea, indeed not mine, but the image statement is so blunt and extruding of our emotions, it cannot go unseen. The images will never leave you, they will strip your backbone bare and leave you naked, suppressed to a very much alive screen. Not to put you off or anything… Oh Jonathan Rosenbaum also calls it “one of the most direct confrontations with death ever recorded on film.” That would be an understatement – it is wholeheartedly a direct confrontation!
This short has intrigued me into the vast and often vulgar world of experimental film. What are your favourite experimental films? I, myself, like the work of Kenneth Anger, Richard Kern and Luis Bunuel, to name a few.
So, is there an underlying message in this film other than the reality of dark subject matter? Perhaps the fine line between life and death?
Here is the film: