When San Francisco renaissance dude Jeremy Solterbeck isn’t remodeling kitchens or designing furniture, he’s likely to be doing some of the most flipped out filmmaking this side of David Lynch. An animator, musician, composer and all around a/v one man band, Solterbeck has spent nearly four years perfecting the 9 1/2 minutes of “Moving Illustrations of Machines” and the finished product reflects both the significant care and talent which went into it.
Sort of “Eraserhead” meets “2001” by way of “Metropolis”, the black and white animated work opens with the deep voice of Dr. Richard Seed, identified as a physicist and cloning advocate. Against a backdrop of rapid-fire abstract icons, Seed offers a cosmic pronouncement to the effect that “We are going to become one with God…to have almost as much knowledge and almost as much power” and that “cloning and the reprogramming of DNA is the first serious step in becoming one with God.”
From there, the film unfolds without a word. A periscope-like device pierces the darkness, directs its beam at various mysterious, seemingly immense floating contraptions and illuminates tantalizingly small bits of surface area on each. The detail revealed in these spotlighted spaces is stunningly intricate. “In the beginning, I had no intention of creating an entire piece,” Solterbeck has explained in interviews, “I was literally playing with illustrations in two dimensions, spinning them, moving them and seeing what could be done…with the 2-D abilities of the software After Effects. I drew the actual elements of each shot by hand, scanned them into Photoshop, animated them in After Effects and then moved on to the next shot.”
Eventually he decided to develop the project into a complete story. Considering the final count of 17,250 frames, it’s easy to see how that process could have taken almost four years. As the piece proceeds, the vantage point gradually pulls back to expose an ever vaster field filled with ever greater numbers and breeds of machines- outer space pipelines decorated with crop circle patterns, rows of whirling dream dynamos, ominous boxes with snakelike coils emerging from them, fantastic gear-driven apparatuses, generators from which eggs drop and drift away and battalions of spiked and twirling orbs which, in the end, blend to form a texture which, viewed from sufficient distance, is revealed to be that of- well, we wouldn’t want to spoil the surprise now would we?
Amazingly, the audio is every bit as first rate as the video. Solterbeck’s hypnotic score is elegantly Eno-esque and seals the ethereal deal from frame one.
The director describes his film as “a surreal look at a mechanical world where human eggs are genetically reprogrammed by ominous machines.” I can see that but, before he tipped me off, I had it pegged as a hallucinogenic explication of the worlds-within-worlds theories of George Berkeley, an 18th century philosopher and author of the 1710 treatise The Principles of Human Knowledge. But I guess Solterbeck should know. Whatever it is, it’s big time phantasmagoric fun.
Given the amount of mind altering movie magic the guy manages in 9 1/2 minutes, it’s staggering to imagine what he might do one of these days with two hours.