The less successful attempts at filmmaking occur when people are trying to make something which functions within the context of current belief systems. It's like trying to get a good grade in society, even if it's alternative society, rather than actually taking the risk of letting the audience feel your heart and your clarity and [to] touch them with that.
SFBG We might be in a dark age in architecture, design, fashion, and everything that involves representing ourselves visually. Aesthetics are ignored, intellect isn't challenged, nor is spirituality. In contrast, all of those things are at the foundation of your work. Does it bother you that the audience is small?
ND I'm not sure. I'm 63 now, and in the last few years while showing my films in Europe and Canada and the US, I've noticed that people in their 20s are really loving them. There's some kind of interesting face-off between my own generation and people who are in their 20s now.
Within the avant-garde there's the virgin syndrome, which is that every showcase will only show a film that's never been screened before. Everyone wants a virgin for their temple. A good avant-garde film is made to be seen 10, 15, 20 times. But because of the virgin syndrome, because they only sacrifice virgins at the temple altar at this point, audiences rarely get to experience a film a number of times.
SFBG Lastly, I want to ask about the roles of silence and sound in your films. Do you prefer silent films?
ND The first time I saw a silent Brakhage film, it seemed quite odd. If you're used to having sugar with your coffee and someone gives you coffee without sugar, you might find it strange. But you can also get used to it, so that when someone puts sugar in your coffee it seems sort of obnoxious.
It's an acquired taste, silence, definitely an acquired taste. But once acquired, it has many deep rewards. For one thing, a sound film is more like sharing a socialized event, where to me a silent film is more like sharing the purity of your aloneness with the purity of someone else's aloneness. The audience has to work a little harder, of course, to participate — everything isn't just spoon-fed to them. But if they do work a little bit harder, they're more than rewarded for that effort.<\!s>
SILENT SONGS: THREE FILMS BY NATHANIEL DORSKY
Sun/10, 7:30 p.m. (sold out) and 9:30 p.m.
Yerba Buena Center for the Arts
701 Mission, SF
For a longer version of this interview, go to www.sfbg.com/blogs/pixel_vision.