Close Up

4 - 5 March 2016: The Modern Prometheus

Marking the 200th anniversary year since Mary Shelley had the legendary dream that led to her culture-changing novel, we're delighted to present two films by Bill Morrison and the London premiere of Eelyn Lee's Monster, testifying to the fragility of flesh and film in the vast cosmological struggle against Kronos. Artist Eelyn Lee will be in conversation during Saturday's event, which is curated and hosted by Gareth Evans, Film Curator, Whitechapel Gallery.

Decasia: The State of Decay
Bill Morrison
2002 | 66 min | B/W | 35mm  

Decasia is composed entirely of decaying, nitrate-based archival footage. But Decasia does more than merely celebrate the psychedelic beauty of decay, as Morrison has deliberately chosen images which seem to push back against their own physical disintegration. This inspiring, haunting tapestry of long lost, partially erased images – nuns leading a slow-moving cortege of schoolchildren, the rescue of a man from drowning, a boxer relentlessly targeting his mysteriously obliterated opponent – testifies not only to the fragile nature of film but to the transience of all human endeavour. Set to an eerie symphonic score by Michael Gordon, Decasia reminds us, as Morrison himself puts it, of the many dreams we forget upon waking.  

Spark of Being
Bill Morrison
2010 | 68 min | Colour & B/W | Digital  

"An inspired collaboration between one of the most adventurous American filmmakers and one of the most exploratory American jazz musicians, found-footage production Spark of Beingtakes Frankenstein into fresh and unexpected territory. Morrison, best known for his gorgeous Decasia and fascination with chemically decayed archival film, matches found silent film with key sequences from Shelley’s novel and cool compositions by composer Dave Douglas, resulting in a retelling of the tale predominantly from the Creature’s p.o.v.

Structured in 13 chapters with silent-film title cards, the film faithfully follows Shelley’s story. Dipping into myriad archival sources, Morrison frequently uses aged materials as illustrations
rather than as narrative devices. Perhaps most strikingly, many of the sequences deploy footage that suggests images seen from the perspective of the Creature, whether of forested landscapes where it finds refuge, or of a mob observing suspiciously.  

Douglas’ massive jazz contribution stands as an equal contribution to the film’s overall effect, blending the trumpeter’s complex, lyrical compositions with more darkly electronic cues, all delivered by his large band, Keystone. Spark of Being draws fascinating parallels between the invention of cinema and that of the Creature, and pulls Shelley’s 19th-century tale into the modern age." – Robert Koehler, Variety  

Monster
Eelyn Lee
2015 | 16 min | Colour | Digital  

Following a ferocious storm, a small estuary community is thrown in to turmoil after a mysterious creature appears in the mud at low tide. The arrival of the creature unleashes deep-rooted fears in most, but Rada played by Anamaria Marinca (4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days), provides refuge for the stranger, an action that leads to devastating consequences.  

Taking inspiration from Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, the film explores the idea of a monster created from fragments of other people's fears. Set in a re-imagined east London on the Thames estuary, Eelyn Lee has evoked a highly distinctive sense of place through filming in a black box studio. Monster was made during a five-day exploratory lab at the Barbican Centre, London where Eelyn led a team of 18 collaborators in a finding new ways of making film content through improvisation.  

The project is currently being developed in to a long form film, which will be shot in locations along the Thames estuary  

More info: http://monsterintheestuary.tumblr.com  

We would like to thank Eelyn Lee and Bill Morrison for making this programme possible