Skip to main content
Lux OnlineHomeThemesArtistsWorkEducationEducationToursHelpSearch
Luxonline
Artists Artist's home pageArtists essay index page
Al ReesClick here to Print this Page
Stephen Dwoskin
Dwoskin is in fact one of the few experimental filmmakers to use actors and drama consistently in his work, albeit in an often improvised and interrogative way.

The jagged edges of his fictional and acted films keep them open to the play of light and chance, just as his free documentary Shadows from Light is focused on formal shape and visual rhythm as well as on its subject, the photographer Bill Brandt. Similarly, he has always deployed music soundtracks, which faded out of the avant-garde cinema until resurrected by new waves and rock videos in the 1980s. The 'long-take' film Jesus Blood of 1974 places Gavin Bryers' plangent loop over long, repeated shots of an elderly derelict approaching the camera. Later, still crossing genres, he mixes classic high opera against domestic scenes or - in the lyrical Some Friends (apart) of 2002 - returns to modernist roots with an evocative score by Alex Balenescu. A film dramatist of alienation and distance, from the 'breakdown' theme of Silent Cry to his latest Beckett adaptation Another Time, he is also a film poet of closeness and empathy.

His stylistic modernism and often abrupt shots, spliced with the early materialist direct and rough-edged printing of films like Me, Myself and I are also linked to the symbolist roots of the modern movement before its formalist phase. Non-linear narrative (like the film medium itself) and private fantasy are symbolist traits too, carried forward by Dwoskin into the digital age. Speech is replaced by song, or by its visual equivalent in the lyric mode. There is little straight spoken dialogue even in the drama films, and in most of his work he stresses the visible gap between shots rather than their imagined unity.

His early reputation was based on lyric psychodrama, or fragmentary evocations of games and glances. Intense moments were his first and lasting interest. They make up the major content of his first films, in contrast to the form-based intensities of contemporaries like Hollis Frampton, George Landow and Paul Sharits. Later he turned to dramas in extended time, in common with such diverse filmmakers as Yvonne Rainer, Werner Herzog, John Cassavetes, Michael Snow and Malcolm Le Grice. In style he is perhaps closest to such mainstream dissident directors such as Cassavetes and Herzog, free thinking artists unconcerned for formal values, seeking modern empathy or a modernist sublime in the wake of post-Freudian disenchantment. But in form he is closer to the metaphorical structuralism of his contemporaries Gregory Markopoulos, Michael Snow and David Larcher. Unlike them, however, he is not concerned with metaphysics, landscape and nature. His world is urban, and his map of nature is the human face. What connects these filmmakers is their sense of cinema as heightened and intensified vision.

Still from Jesus Blood by Stephen Dwoskin, 1972
Go to top of                             page
HomeThemesArtistsWorkEducationEducationToursHelpSearch