Director Bill Morrison has made a career of re-shooting decaying film stock and matching it with melancholy scores from composer Michael Gordon. His films tend to either entrance or bore audiences. “Light is Calling” proves to be one of his more accessible works, an incomparably beautiful and sad film experiment. I won’t pretend to fully understand what this film means, but goddamn if it doesn’t hit me right in the heart.
Whereas the story in Morrison’s elegiac epic “Decasia” was purely metaphorical, in this film the director has permitted a semblance of actual plot. A militiaman riding; a woman waiting; a meeting; a departure. Simple though it is, this story is enough to give Morrison’s work a backbone. As images emerge through the painterly swirls of emulsion, the viewer is invited—nay, required—to reflect on the ephemeral quality of the film and, by extension, its characters.
For those with limited patience for non-narrative “artsy” films, “Light is Calling” is just the right length. Only in the final thirty seconds or so does Gordon’s haunting avant-garde score cross the line into dissonance, breaking the delicate connection it held with Morrison’s images. Still, this breathtaking film manages to capture your emotions as well as your eyes.