A bifurcated commingling of the elemental and the cosmic, Betzy Bromberg's Voluptuous Sleep Series is cinema not only for the eyes and ears but for gray matter as well. At once hallucinatory and tranquil, the ever-flowing stream of images that comprises the film (there are no actors, dialogue or narrative) is shot in such extreme close-up as to make viewing it the cinematic equivalent of a Rorschach blot: Bromberg inspires the viewer to look for images within images (and meaning therein) the way one might when searching for shapes in passing clouds.
The blend of visuals — some pleasant, others ominous, though the transition from one to the other is often seamless — is striking: Water and electricity recur often, sometimes followed by what look like electrified dandelions and something in between spiderwebs and cigarette smoke.
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That Bromberg's lens comes close enough to its various subjects to show minute, elementary detail, only to blur that detail away to the point of abstraction, is indicative of a fascination with, and focus on, the power of cinematic artifice to obscure the natural.
The two halves differ more in terms of sound than sight. A sometimes abrasive soundscape hums along sonorously with the images in the first; in the second, a string quartet replaces the electronic droning with melancholic warmth while maintaining a foreboding air. The effect is arresting, especially since the accompanying imagery retains its bright hues throughout.
And yet, to ponder its latent meaning — or whether there is one rather than many — is to somehow feel alone in a shared experience whose immediacy seems a mere prelude to a resonance not often found in such a deceptively straightforward film. Voluptuous Sleep's alternately beatific and unsettling images will fade from the mind much more slowly than they do from the screen.
VOLUPTUOUS SLEEP SERIES | Mon., April 4, 8:30 p.m. | REDCAT | redcat.org