“Here’s a film that I made out of a deep grief. The grief is my business, in a way, but the grief was helpful in squeezing the little film out of me, that I said, ‘These crazy moths are flying into the candlelight, and burning themselves to death! And that’s what’s happening to me! I don’t have enough money to make these films, and it’s destroying… I’m not feeding my children properly because of these damn films,’ you know, and I’m burning up here … I’m feeling the full horror of some kind of immolation, in a way … So I say ‘Well, I’m going to comprehend this; I’ve got to understand it.’ So I go out with a camera and I start following moths around, well, that was hopeless, I’m not agile enough to follow a moth, even with a camera [laughs] and get anything of any real meaning. And suddenly I realize that… over the light bulbs, there’s all these dead moth wings. And I hate—y’know, hate that. Such a sadness. There must surely be something to do with that, and I tenderly pick them out and I start pasting them onto a strip of film to try to… in one way, you’d say it’s a kind of madness, to give them life again? To animate them again? To put them into some kind of life through the motion picture machine [laughs]? But really, it’s, I think, deeper than that … It’s to engage with this, that otherwise is just an unacceptable… unhappiness, or misery. To engage with it in some way that makes of it something.”
Mothlight (Stan Brakhage, 1963)
Film stills courtesy of the Estate of Stan Brakhage and Fred Camper.