To be honest, I wasn’t quite sure what to make of this video. The flashing colors and random, split second scenes of what seemed to be random images, were stupefying at first. The quick flashes reminded me of brainwashing videos. Quick flashes in a video are often used to subtly influence someone’s perception of something. The flashing images are often laced within a longer video. They usually contain negative things like death, carnage, mutilation, fear, sadness, and so on… in order to make someone fear or hate the thing featured in the longer portion of the video. Because of my prior experience with videos of that type, I was filled with a sense of dread watching the video. If that was the goal, then Stan Brakhage succeeded.
Upon doing more research of Brakhage, I saw that he was a pioneer for experimental film. My only exposure to somewhat experimental film has been Eraserhead, which also sits uncomfortably with me. Brakhage was finally recognized for his work with the film The Dead. This film reminded me of experimental horror short films I like to peruse on YouTube. The flashing, the colors, the overlaying of film to make abstract out of the concrete, all combines to something… unsettling. With all of this experience under my belt, it’s needless to say that Brakhage’s Stellar caused a knee-jerk reaction with me. The flashing colors of the film were innocuous on the surface, but under every variation of blue I saw death, and under every variation of red I saw a desert.
Needless to say, I’m sure this short film was meant to sit uneasily with its audience. Anything that strays from what we are comfortable with leaves us feeling a sense of fear as humans. Even if these things are as simple as concepts. We are naturally fearful of the unknown, and sudden change which is part of the shocking visuals of Brakhage’s films. The only reason I see for Brakhage making this film, is to simply experiment with human emotion.