Bruce Elder

Filmography (partial)

Breath/Light/Birth (1975), 6 minutes

Barbara is a Vision of Loveliness (1976), 8 minutes

She is Away (1975), 13 minutes

Permutations and Combinations (1976), 7.75 minutes

The Art of Worldly Wisdom (1979), 55 minutes

Sweet Love Remembered (1980), 12.5 minutes

Trace (1980), 1 minute

1857: Fool’s Gold (1981), 24 minutes

Illuminated Texts (1982), 176 minutes

Lamentations: Part One, The Dream of the Last Historian (1985), 3 hours, 15 minutes

Lamentations: Part Two, The Sublime Calculation (1985), 4 hours.

The Fugitive Gods (1988), 3.5 hours

The Lighted Clearing (1988), 3.5 hours

The Body and the World (1988), 3.5 hours

Flesh Angels (1990), 113 minutes

Newton and Me (1990), 113 minutes

Azure Serene: Mountains, Rivers, Sea and Sky (1992), 115 minutes

Look! We Have Come Through! (1978), 12 minutes

Exultations (In the Light of the Great Giving) (1992), 90 minutes

Burying the Dead (Into the Light) (1993), 90 minutes

Et resurrectus est (1994), 130 minutes

A Man Whose Life Was Full of Woe Has Been Surprised by Joy (1997), 90 minutes

Bruce Elder’s film-making began in 1975. A philosopher and critic, he brought to cinema an aspiration to confront history in cinematic terms. Lianne McLarty, in 1984, wrote that his earlier vision was "one of absence, loss and isolation" but that in his more recent works he was seeking to "reconcile himself with the world around him," and was proposing the creative imagination as an alternative to the destruction that has characterized our century. History, for Elder, is not something of the past, but a part of the present. In 1987 Elder declared that:

In order to transform ourselves, we must open ourselves to the revelation that the past lingers within the present and that the present bears the germ of the future.

Elder regards the world as an arena for struggle that is mythic and filmic. The concepts of light and darkness are suggestive of Milton’s Paradise Lost as well as integral to his cinematic imagery:

The darkening of the world, the flight of the gods, the transformation of humans from flesh to metal, the spread of the hatred of fertility and creativity are all processes that have gone so far that they sometimes seem irreversible. They have proceeded so far that we no longer even remember what was lost in forsaking our humanity, and are unable to gauge how far we have declined.

Elder is fond of addressing the spectator on two tracks: there is a spoken narration, but also a continuous series of subtitles or intertitles which compliment but do not match the words we hear. Similarly, the picture track on the screen is often double-exposed so that we see beneath the primary image the highlights of an earlier image.

In his forty hour The Book of All the Dead, Elder tracks in word and image what has happened to European/ American consciousness since the Enlightenment. Lamentations describes the journey prescribed by the Romantics.

If history had begun with humankind in communion with nature, in its course, we have become separated from nature. Through the course of history, we have gone from integration through spiritual crisis to alienation. Now another spiritual crisis promises to effect a redemptive reintegration with the cosmos and our own possibilities through the crisis, our origin has fallen into our future from whence it calls us to return to our possible greatness...

Much of The Book of All the Dead evokes a tension not unlike that which infuses Dante’s epic, carnal love and intellectual love.

Like Dante’s epic, it seeks after the Love that binds the scattered pages of the universe into one volume, after an understanding of all relations as un semplice luce. And like the conclusion of Dante’s epic, the end of The Book of All the Dead presents a vision of the cosmos as held together by three forces of light, reason, and love, which, in the end, are all understood to be identical. As Beatrice tells the Poet that the Empyrean is made up of light, reason and love: pure light: intellectual light full of love; love of true good, full of happiness.