Academic journal article CineAction

An Interview with R. Bruce Elder

Academic journal article CineAction

An Interview with R. Bruce Elder

Article excerpt

On a cold February night this year, Cinematheque Ontario presented the world premiere of Eros and Wonder, R. Bruce Elder's latest experimental film. Being part of the impressed and delighted crowd that night at the Cinematheque, my mind immediately went back to a few months ago, when I saw Elder's prior film Crack, Brutal Grief at a screening at Ryerson University. This disturbing work, made up of footage downloaded from the World Wide Web--deals with the imaginative transformations of found footage, with a deep sense of wretchedness. Eros and Wonder, on the other hand, involves other kinds of transformations: that of the creative/vital power, imagery, history/memory and the self. Technically, on a production level, the film also makes use of both electrical and chemical transformations.

Along with A Man Whose Life Was Full of Woe Has Been Surprised by Joy, Crack, Brutal Grief and Eros and Wonder constitute a cycle of films that Elder entitles The Book of Praise. Elder's earlier cycle called The Book of All the Dead comes from an interest the filmmaker felt, in his words, toward the aesthetic qualities of the Catholic liturgy whereas The Book of Praise is influenced by Protestant spirituality, particularly the place of the subject in Protestant thought. As Elder expressed, the withdrawal of the subject from the outer world into itself, the place of imagination and imagination as generative force became the key concerns of The Book of Praise. I took the viewer's liberty, and asked Elder questions about his last film based on my vision/interpretation of it, alongside other questions on his work and Canadian cinema.

This interview was made at a time when Bruce Elder was busy programming the Stan Brakhage Memorial Screenings at the Images Festival. He had finished a manuscript of a book on the influence of cinema on shaping the ideals of Futurism, Surrealism, Cubism, Constructivism and Dada. Needless to say, R. Bruce Elder is one of the most productive filmmaker/professor/writer/critics of the Canadian art scene. He probably is one of the few--or the only!--who has a background in applied mathematics and computer science.

Aysegul Koc: Starting with the title of your last film, Eros and Wonder, there's a passage in your article Foreignness of the Intimate or the Violence and Charity of Perception where you talk about eros.

   A nude implores us to caress; but a caress acknowledges that we
   cannot close the divide across which the Other resides. In
   caressing, or in imagining caressing, we acknowledge that erotic
   relations are not really reciprocal relations as our sense of
   justice would have us believe. Caresses tell us that eros is bound
   into an unintelligible, unfathomable condition (and so a condition
   that cannot be reduced to signification), for they tell us that our
   most profound, most creative ("self-making") relationships are to a
   being that not only is totally separate, but belongs to a different
   realm altogether. They tell us, then, that we are most deeply
   linked to what withdraws from us. (Elder, 21)

I'm curious about the meaning you attribute to 'Eros' and 'Wonder'.

R. Bruce Elder: Both the experience of the erotic and the experience of wonder are the experiences of something that calls out from beyond that it reaches down to us into our most intimate being and disrupts our conception of what it is to be a human being. Most of us play some kind of a lip service to the idea that human beings are gentle, decent, loving beings. But the profoundness of the experience reveals something working beyond that, outside of ourselves but which reaches into our inner being and transforms us utterly. But at the same time when we try to grasp the Other that transforms us--or even try to give ourselves over to it, it withdraws from us, we never become entirely at one with the object of either our erotic enthusiasms, or with that which provokes wonder. …

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