Directors: John Cage & Henning Lohner
Time: 93 mins
Music: John Cage
Eye of Sound: Cage's only feature film is much more than a mere cinematic adventure by someone versed in other arts; it is a visual extension of the principles he applied to his musical pieces and is conceptually coherent with his body of work. The title it self refers to a chronological order in Cage's repertoire: it is the 11th composition that Cage wrote for a single performer. The performer is, in this case, the camera. But this is not a mere "the medium is the medium" prank. Free of the burden of meaning, the film consists of multiple complex chance-operations (well documented in the previous post) by which light and, therefore, darkness are given full protagonism in front of the camera. No room is empty, Cage said, and (in a fairly conventional manner) the interplay of these two actors can be seen, first and foremost, as an exploration of the existing spatial dimensions in a given room. Emptiness is an essential part of Cage's thought and, much like in his famous 4:33, it is here evoked as a means of revealing the incommensurable fullness of an empty space. Inspired by the I-Ching, chance is again accepted - within some constraints - as the driving force behind the creative act: camera movements, lighting events and editing were all determined by random operations controlled by the decisions of the workers in song. The accompanying musical piece, 103, is itself based on chance operations, and its density and eventfulness point to fullness of an empty room as seen on the screen. Here performed by the WDR Orchestra of Koln, the piece ranges from solos, duos and trios to mass orchestral soundwalls, and is divided, like the film, in 17 parts - although there is no direct relation between the two realities. Many languages and cultures acknowledge the irreality of emptiness and open up space to conceptual dimensions hardly graspable by Westernized thought. Much of Cage's work has explored similar ideas and, while One11 is certainly one of the most accomplished and beautiful exercises in his repertoire, it can also be said be seen as the most lucid and transparent demonstration of its conceptual and philosophical principles. A rare sense of timelessness emerges from these plays of light, and the film's pristine beauty can surely entrance anyone not interested or learned in Cage theory. And that's probably the warmest praise one can offer to One11: that it is a masterpiece, regardless of its putative author and theoretical background.