“The Uphill Descent” is a powerful 4 and a half minute abstract and visual film. It begins with a series of shots, each lasting about 8 seconds, which show gorgeous flowers. We hear an ominous musical chord, and, in each case, the flower are seen to “decay” into a kind of rusted, ruined version of the original image. It is as if some force is taking the vibrance of organic life and slowly killing it.
The film’s dramatic and beautiful central section takes the viewer on a journey through an abstract space where, true to the film’s title, we feel that we could be either falling down to the depths or else rising up to the heavens. Moving through all these layers of rust and decay, we finally land on a strange, leaden grayish plaque, covered in arcane symbols, such as the alchemical symbols for male and female. This sequence strengthened my impression that the film is talking about the corrupting power of the intellectual, conceptual mind, which takes all of the flowing, organic, aliveness of our immediate sensory experiences of the world, and deadens and kills them, by turning them into fixed concepts. The plaque of symbols is followed, with dramatic contrast, by more shots of flowers, the camera violently shaking with energy, and the sound of rushing water or wind and the cries of animals: a contrasting image of vibrant life.
The film might be saying that just as it can be felt as a tragedy when something alive and beautiful dies, it can also be tragic when a person’s very alive inner experiences become fixed in rigid concepts. But the film itself does not suffer too badly from this process, since the film, although it clearly has some substantive conceptual content, does not become aesthetically bogged down by being too flatly “concept driven,” and instead it remains a visually and aurally “alive” work of art. David Baeumler manages to pack a tremendous number of powerful ideas and feelings into a very short and completely visual, abstract film.