The Divine Miracle

      Comments Off on The Divine Miracle

Daina Krumins’ film The Divine Miracle (1972) dramatizes Christ’s crucifixion, his resurrection and his ascent into Heaven. The film is executed as if it were a children’s illustrated Bible come to life in a triptych of tableaus, each with a unique sense of pageantry. The unique look of the film was achieved not with animation, but during the printing process.

Krumins’ previous film, the equally experimental Aether (1972), also utilized a complex printing process to achieve fantastic effects not dissimilar to her photo-collages. In addition to being unified by their shared techniques, both Aether and The Divine Miracle comment on abstract notions of human spirituality made tangible and expressive. Krumins’ films, as well as her writings, present an artist in the midst of a discourse with the divine and the occult in terms of how these ethereal constructs are codified and distilled or even perverted by the mainstream of American capitalist society.

The Divine Miracle, with its gaudy colors and practical effects, perhaps suggests the absurdity of Christian faith as a set of highly marketable icons and symbols. For instance, the Christ image and the appearance of the angels recalls politically conservative Christian propagandist films. This subtle critique, this style, is balanced by the seriousness with which Krumins approaches her divine subject. There is no overt lampooning of Christian faith or of Christ in The Divine Miracle, rather it is in the contrasting dichotomy of dramatic tone and visual style that any sort of critique exists.

Unifying these opposing aesthetic impulses is the music of Rhys Chatham. Chatham’s musical composition for The Divine Miracle comes early in his career as a composer and is decidedly avant-garde. The fluttering, heavenly sounds of the music for the film pre-dates Chatham’s first success with No Wave music in the late seventies and instead suggests the work of John Cage.

Krumins’ conceptual methodology and Chatham’s sonic contributions place The Divine Miracle towards the end of, but firmly apart of, the most prolific period of American underground filmmaking. The value of The Divine Miracle rests more on the side of Krumins’ technical achievement than her subtle critique of American Christianity. When viewed today The Divine Miracle is attractive because it’s analogue roots make it look like nothing else one is likely to find streaming anywhere.