Ernie Gehr

Serene Velocity (1970)





Ernie Gehr's structuralist masterpiece SERENE VELOCITY is a hypnotic film which is nothing more than a rapidly edited, rhythmic piece consisting of two shots of an office hallway (one long shot, one zoomed-in close up). Our persistence of vision makes us believe that this film is a perpetual zooming in and out from one end of a hallway to another. Rather, it is a carefully edited and timed film, which consistently cuts back and forth between these two shots. The result is a mesmerizing piece which, as it progresses, treats the eyes to much profundity out of something so simple. We begin to notice the perfect geometry of the composition as the lines of the hallway converge to the center. The film becomes some kind of cosmic heartbeat, as this meticulously timed work of art becomes visual music. There is no beginning, middle or end."---IMDB

10 comments:

thechampionpig said...

A 35mm print of "Serene Velocity" screened at the Museum of Modern Art on 10/29/2007. Gehr spoke after the screening, and it's worth noting that his process is not as meticulous or structuralist as often considered.

He described how this film was edited in camera, taking him an entire night to shoot 3-6 frames at a time. There was no post-production editing, and he jokingly mentioned how unprepared he was for the single night of production, dubbing himself a "lazy' filmmaker. He even admitted that the frame intervals varied as he grew weary of the night.

We can take these anecdotes with a grain of salt, but Gehr seemed most serious when describing the difference between a scheme and a structure. The former leaves space for play, actual and in spirit, and does not attempt to predict all the consequences, or what he called the overtones.

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