Decasia. 2002. USA. Directed by Bill Morrison. Music by Michael Gordon. 67 min.
Morrison’s groundbreaking, transfixing film consists of fragments of decades-old silent film footage and decomposed nitrate film stock, sourced from multiple archives across the United States, with a haunting symphonic score by Michael Gordon. The score was first performed live by the Basel Sinfonietta in 2001. The film begins with the image of a whirling dervish, reels of film being developed, and an explosive cloud of smoke, followed by beautiful patterns of nitrate decay that replicate and reveal the emerging patterns of figures, landscapes, and other scenes that lie underneath. As Morrison states: “I was seeking instances of decay set against a narrative backdrop, for example, of valiant struggle, or thwarted love, or birth, or submersion, or rescue, or one of the other themes I was trying to interweave. And never complete decay; I was always seeking out instances where the image was still putting up a struggle, fighting off the inexorability of its demise but not yet having succumbed.”