Underground Film Journal

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Zen, Lucifer And Butterflies

Dragging into my ongoing discussion about a new spiritualism in underground film is Jennifer MacMillan‘s lovely It Is Repose in the Light. It’s short, it’s silent, it’s embedded above: Please watch it.

Previously, when I’ve talked about underground film spiritualism, the discussion has revolved around explorations into the teachings of Aleister Crowley and by invoking the name of Lucifer who, according to underground legend Kenneth Anger, is the patron saint of the cinema. While MacMillan makes no reference to Lucifer with this film, I found it fit in with other recent films I’ve posted based on the title and imagery.

Lucifer in this context is in the original tradition, the light entity or sun god; not the dark being most modern people would associate his name with. “Light” obviously is in the title of this film, but while MacMillan has also posted up other films of butterflies, with this film she’s really manipulated the color here, so that the “star” of her film isn’t just existing in the light as the title might indicate, but the manipulation makes it look like as if it is projecting light at the audience.

At the same time, I think this is a spiritual film for another reason. While the term “zen film” isn’t one I’ve come across too much, it’s a term I would use to describe this film. Trying to achieve zen is a form of spirituality and this is a film that seems designed to help with meditation. The slowing down of the flapping butterfly wings mirrors the slowing down of the breath that one does during zen meditation. While the film is very short — just a minute long — it holds an image that would work well played on an infinite loop. One minute isn’t very long for a meditation session, but repeated for even just 10 or 20 minutes, this would be perfect.

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