Tuesday, 2 March 2010


Comprising one long zoom (in reality, a series of shots stitched together), experimental filmmaker Michael Snow’s best-known work Wavelength centres on a large, mostly empty room. The camera is pointed at four windows on one of the walls, the rest of the space barely relevant. During the zoom, the image undergoes various changes – colour, film speed, focus. The room is occasionally inhabited by people, forming a narrative which is deliberately sidelined, even in light of dramatic events. As the zoom approaches the windows, it settles on a section of wall in the middle covered in photographs. Moving closer still, the camera frames itself on a photo of the sea, so that waves fill the screen. Throughout the film, a sine wave is heard, running the gamut from 50 to 12,000 cycles per second. The sound ultimately synchronises with a police siren, heralding the end of the film.

Wavelength requires a little patience, particularly bearing in mind the alienating sound of the sine wave, but it is undoubtedly a worthwhile experiment. Snow, who is known for playing at length with camera movement, returns film to quasi-purity – the camera is no longer selective, but is reduced to one constant motion, as is the sound. At times, the camera’s transformations render the room unrecognisable – as the image flips from negative to positive, the negative space of the windows almost leaves an imprint on the eye. By pushing the boundaries of the medium, Wavelength gives us an insight of a world between the lines.

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