Once Within a Time. 2022. USA. Written and directed by Godfrey Reggio. Co-directed by Jon Kane. Original music composed by Philip Glass. DCP. New York premiere. 51 min.
If previous works by Godfrey Reggio and Philip Glass brought the destructive force of human activities to the fore, this new collaboration—nine years in the making since its inception, and their first since Visitors (2013)—provides an injection of innocence and the possibility of hope. In this imaginative work, children inhabit a surreal and whimsical world created in a studio—a departure from the duo’s previous body of work, which draws primarily from real-world images. While the title brings to mind the opening of a fairy tale, there isn’t a plot or a straightforward message. Dreamlike scenes guide us through a journey into the subconscious, where youngsters take center stage. Shot digitally but designed to evoke the celluloid aesthetic, the film appears as nostalgic sci-fi tying together past and future. Adults are not absent: vocalist Sussan Deyhim, who creates and performs music in addition to Glass’s stirring original score, appears as a towering presence presiding over the dreamscape, and Mike Tyson makes an intriguing appearance that leaves much for interpretation.