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By David Finkelstein | July 1, 2010

In “Journey to Q’xtlan,” Peter Rose continues his exploration of a technique he has developed which he calls “transfalumination.” He films scenes such as grass and trees, a small suspension bridge, or an underground tunnel, in the pitch blackness of night, and illuminated only by hand-held lights. Sometimes we can see Rose, who is holding the lights, in the shot. He dances and waves his arms to paint the space with light. There are a number of reasons why this deceptively simple-sounding premise creates film images of singular power, mystery, and delight. First of all, Rose photographs beautifully. The images are seen in a slow frame rate, which adds a sense of mystery. There is a wonderful sense in which this action, in which Rose, moving the lights, literally creates our experience of space and form for us. This enables him to reveal to us something about the nature of eyesight, not as a passive activity in which images pour into our brain, but as a creative action, in which our eye and brain reach out into the space and create our sensation of volume. As Rose dances with the lights, he is able to translate the subtle, kinetic sensations of his arms into very clearly articulated rhythmic experiences of space. He has thus found a way to give himself the same musically expressive quality that an opera singer has as she fills a theater with her voice. He then smoothly edits these visual arias into a sequence of exotic-seeming landscapes.

The sound for the film also uses ordinary materials to create an exotic feeling of mystery. He takes everyday sounds such as a cat purring or traffic sounds, and uses speed changes and electronic reverb to create a strange, otherworldly landscape which can sound like wails, sirens, rushing water, underground trains, and insects.

The haunting end of the film shows myriad flecks of green light on the fine interwoven branches of trees. The camera slowly follows the light as it rises upwards, towards a sky in which the first light of dawn is beginning to show, as we hear the sound of a strange bird. It is a magical image, almost as if the mysterious life-essence within the trees is slowly emerging.

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