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By David Finkelstein | September 15, 2012

Fritz Stolberg’s “Of This, Men Shall Know Nothing” is a powerful surrealist short, in black and white photography which is reminiscent of the early surrealist shorts of Dali and Cocteau. (The title, as well as some of the imagery, refers to a painting by Max Ernst.) As in those earlier films, this film is a fractured narrative, in which mysterious figures are seen to inhabit several realms simultaneously.

For example, a beautiful crippled woman in a mini skirt encounters an older man in a mask, and they are sometimes seen on a street and sometimes in front of a geodesic dome, guarded by a dog. The man gives her her own mask, which seems to send her into an agonizing inner realm, where she imagines underwater figures. All of the figures in the film, including the dog, receive illuminations in which glowing geometric figures grow from their foreheads. Trance-like music for strings, voices and piano by Ebe Oke adds to the feeling of an esoteric spiritual practice which opens the way to startling visions.

Stolberg has an uncanny ability to assemble fragmentary bits of action and imagery to simulate the hallucinatory intensity of a dream or a vision. In a short amount of time, “Of This, Men Shall Know Nothing” transports the viewer into a compellingly inexplicable world, where masked figures forcibly impose terrifying revelations on their half-willing victims.

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