The Film: Decasia, 2002

Port regular Dominic Power recommends Bill Morrison’s 2002 abstract film of found-footage

It begins with the figure of a whirling dervish, face impassive, moving in slow motion – an image from some long-lost ethnographic documentary that is the prelude to a symphony of disintegration. A succession of film fragments, mostly from the early part of the twentieth century, flicker briefly before our eyes and start to self destruct. Bill Morrison’s 2002 abstract movie, Decasia, is a witness to the last moments of film. Accompanied by Michael Gordon’s eerie minimalist soundtrack, the images on screen distort and degrade; sometimes the pictures are ravaged by tumours, sometimes they begin to evaporate like vampires trapped in sunlight. Dark presences materialise on screen, resembling apocalyptic natural disasters or alien landings. The found footage is mostly from documentaries or forgotten melodramas and hardly any of it has been identified, making its destruction all the more poignant. In their death throes the glimpsed images take on an occult quality, and the expressions on the faces have a haunting intensity. You can watch it as horror movie – the orgy of decay is both exhilarating and disturbing – but it cuts deeper than that. Decasia is a memento mori – a reminder that human life is as mutable as the film that records it.

Dominic is head of the Screen Arts Department at the National Film and Television School