The End


Maclaine earned a reputation around San Francisco for working with a sort of dedication to madness. "He used to put it very simply by saying he fell out of a tree at a certain age and everything in his life had gone awry ever since" (Brakhage 116). This dedication to madness is one of the elements that make The End such a masterpiece. The end of the humanity is about to occur; yet the main characters in his this film are committing suicide, or being murdered. It is ironic because death is about to sweep over the planet, but death cannot come fast enough for some; they cannot cope with the pain of existence even one minute longer. In The End, Walter is murdered, Charles jumps off a bridge, John shoots himself in the head, and finally an atomic bomb detonates symbolizing death for all.

Maclaine's work has left a lasting impression in the world of avant-garde film. Referring to The End, Sitney explains, ". . . The combinations of color and black-and- white, the proleptic use of metaphor, the dialectic of doom and redemption--can be found in a more integrated and full achieved way in Brakhage's Dog Star Man. Furthermore, in Blue Mosses Brakhage refined some of the tactics of direct address and indirect narration which in Maclaine's original, although they are brilliantly employed, are drowned in the naive urgency of his statement" (Sitney 297). In this last statement Sitney uses the word 'naive'. This word implies that Maclain's use of direct address and indirect narration have some amateur qualities. As discussed previously, it is this amateurish style that makes Maclaine's work so fascinating. One is always left to the ponder, "Did Maclaine make a mistake, or did he do that intentionally?"

To aid in shot continuity, media students are often taught to cut on the action, but Maclaine often disregards this rule. The first story in The End exemplifies Maclaine's unique editing style. "The scenes of Walter's running situate themselves in deep perspective, into which he flees or out of which he escapes. Often the empty staircase or street rests on the screen for a few seconds before the actor suddenly enters from an unanticipated direction to pursue his race along the receding line of perspective" (Sitney 295).

The audience is again confronted with ambiguity in The End, especially in the sixth story. Maclaine narrates and asks the audience to create a story for themselves. Maclaine provides the character, music, and images. But after he tells us to create the story for ourselves he begins narrating a story for us. "As if unable to tolerate the extremity of ambiguity with which he has confronted us, he begins to make a story for us with echoes of St. Paul on the road to Damascus: (Sitney 296).

Life is ambiguous, there are so many decisions to be made and how is one to know if he/she has made the right choice? How many times does one start something and never complete the task? Maclain's work in The End seems to illustrate the ambiguous nature of daily life. If one were to isolate all the images that the eye sees in one day and edit them together in a particular pattern, one could produce a film with much ambiguity. For example what does a telephone have to do with an oak tree? This is a question that is influenced by one's individual perceptions and experiences. When Maclaine asks the audience "Do you see yourself" he is taking into account that everyone perceives the world uniquely and individuals can see themselves in the same character differently. "For Maclaine, each character's existence is a discontinuous flood of often unrelated thoughts. . . . Maclaine tells stories based in social reality but in a manner so profoundly fragmented, so unnerving, as to give even viewers who've seen the works many times a series of perceptual shocks" (Camper: The Chicago Reader Movie Review ). The topic of Maclaine's amateur style of filmmaking has been the topic of discussion among many critics. When producing The Man Who Invented Gold , Maclaine had Jordan Belson, a noteworthy cinematographer, operate the camera. However, Belson could not tolerate Maclaine's madness and walked off the job. "The greatest moments in art are often results of an unforeseen difficulty . . . It was at that point that Maclaine had to take up the camera himself. So he started finding stand-ins, and out of that necessity he created the wonderful ambiguities in The Man Who Invented Gold (Brakhage 123).

Although Maclaine had a relatively short career in film, his work has earned a lasting place in the world of avant-garde film. The End communicates to the viewer on many different levels. Each time one views The End it evokes different emotions and responses. The audience is bombarded with images and sounds that can evoke different reactions based upon the state of mind the viewer is in at that particular time.


--Will Michael, 2004

Christopher Maclaine