Film

These home movies are rich in revelation, initially about the past and ourselves, but also about such larger issues as filming ourselves, or ourselves as filmmakers. They are a revelation in more ways than perhaps we can immediately comprehend, and our desire to unravel their mystery is why we now view them over and over again. I personally find such home movies far more effective than still photography in telling me how I looked at different times in my life, or at least how I looked in moderately staged situations; for precisely in their inauthenticity, in the difference between what I now see and what I remember, or what I think happened, they become interesting and at times infuriating. As images from the film entered my head, and as I began to question those images, I connected my experience of these home movies to an earlier, mostly bookish interest of mine in autobiographical methodology, which is to say autohistoriography. To get a more critical sense of their relationships to my own experience, I took the nine hours of family footage and from it extracted forty-five minutes of sections about me and those around me, editing more than two hundred excerpts into a roughly continuous, visually coherent sequence that, incidentally, avoids freeze-framing and other optical enhancements. Viewing them again and again, I've thought about them at length.

What is revealed here, implicitly as well as explicitly? What is omitted? About me, my milieu and my times? Does a scene remind me of what it shows or mostly, instead, of what it doesn't show? These are questions I found myself continually confronting. These are personal questions, of course; but in a meditation on home movies is perhaps a general resonance. “The child is the mystery of this life. And the child is the meaning of this life.” Those are lines from a short story by Delmore Schwartz, lines that I find myself repeating, “The child is the mystery of this life,” I say with both awe and puzzlement, as I review this footage of my own earliest years.

In home movies, all home movies, is another theme that makes them inevitably a moving experience, if not a kind of religious omen, for the people portrayed. In looking at kinetic images of people who are no longer alive, or no longer so young, you see, simply, that the Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away.

“Home Movies Reconsidered” (1989)