Stan Brakhage’s short film ‘Mothlight’ represented an idea to me. Rather than recognising a coherent narrative structure I came away from the film with an understanding on the theme of life, and specifically that everything in this world is connected.

‘Mothlight’ has a strong association with the idea of death. With all of the images shown in the film being of dead things, the concept of death in inescapable. Yet the constant flicker of light that comes from the rapid change of image to image invokes the flutter of a moth’s wings, or the rustle of leaves in a wind. It is as if death is imitating life. The film manages to show this in a beautiful and captivating way. It could be saying that death gives way to life. That from death comes new life, and that this process of life is a beautiful thing.

The technique of shinning light through the objects is important, as the objects appear transparent. By showing these objects with the light shinning through them it seems as though they can be viewed in their entirety. Nothing is hidden, and what we are left with is supposedly the true form of the object. With death comes the lack of life’s mannerisms to mask or confuse. The illusion of difference in life is now able to be seen as false in death.

What is it? A leaf or a moth wing? (Brakhage, 1963,’Mothlight’)

The quick transgression of the images also serve as a way to make it obvious how similar the objects are. At times it is hardly distinguishable what is being seen as the objects blur into patterns and shapes. The remainders of these once living forms are reduced down to a basic and transparent point, and essentially they appear the same. Everything is just patterns and shapes. Further along, when the objects disintegrate into a mess at the end, it was as if they were breaking down into an even more basic state.


Patterns and Shapes.

Link for flower image. Link for moth wing image.

(Brakhage, 1963,’Mothlight’)

To me this brought forward the idea that everything in our existence is the same. That we come from and revert back to the same stuff, meaning that ultimately there is no difference between the forms we take.

Stan Brakhage may have, of course, had no intention of getting this idea across, however his use of light and the way he rapidly shows the images, combined with the the theme of life and death suggested to me that this was his intention.